10 Facts About Earth's Moon You Probably Didn’t Know About
Ever since humanity first looked up, they’ve been fascinated by what you can see in the night sky. We’re willing to bet that there were things you didn’t know about the moon, even if you’re a major fan of astronomy.
At one point or another, everyone has looked up at the night sky, seen the moon, and wondered what it would be like to take a walk on the lunar surface. For aeons, man’s fascination with the moon served as a spark for scientific discovery, as well as the basis for religion, and far more.
Humanity remains fascinated by the moon, and always seems to want to learn more about it. That is why NASA has sent people to explore the lunar surface. It’s also why companies like AstroReality created 3D printed lunar models with augmented reality educational apps, too.
Learning about the moon can help you feel connected to the universe, and that’s why many people enjoy astronomy. The funny thing about astronomy is that even experts often will find things they didn’t know about planets, stars, and more.
For example, we’re willing to bet that the following things you didn’t know about the moon will shock you.
The moon doesn’t actually orbit Earth.
Though we may have learned that the moon rotates around the Earth and technically, it does, your teacher in school was wrong. The moon does not actually orbit our planet. Scientists have proven that the moon’s orbit is actually in tandem with the Earth’s. That’s why the moon’s position seems to change from season to season
The real planetary mass that determines the moon’s path is the sun. Wired Magazine did an entire spread on this in 2012, proving that there are things you didn’t know about the moon, simply because you might have been taught the wrong thing in school.
There’s an international lunar peace treaty in action.
The US and Russia, along with 97 other countries, signed a treaty that designated the moon as off-limits for military use. The treaty is called the Outer Space Treaty, and basically calls for the moon’s territory to be treated like International Waters.
You might have heard that Pink Floyd song about the “dark side of the moon,” and wondered what that was all about. Due to the moon’s unique rotation pattern, there is a part of the moon that is always facing away from Earth.
You can only really see what this side of the moon looks like if you get a 3D printed model, like the ones from AstroReality. The thing is, though, that this side of the moon isn’t really dark. That’s a misnomer. It experiences night and day just the way that Earth does.
A more accurate way to call it would be the “hidden side of the moon,” but that doesn’t really have the kind of ring you’d want to hear, does it?
The moon is rich in helium-3.
Helium-3 is a very rare isotope on Earth, and has a plethora of energy uses. More specifically, it’s an important gas that can be used in nuclear fusion reactions. If we could harness the moon’s helium-3, it’s surmised that many energy-related issues could be solved.
One hundred tons of this gas would be enough to power all of Earth for a year. The moon has over 15 million tons of helium-3 on its surface. We’re willing to bet you weren’t expecting a list of things you didn’t know about the moon to talk about energy needs, right?
Lunar months aren’t really stable.
A lot of the things you didn’t know about the moon are little-known facts simply because people tend to pass myths on as fact. One of the most common myths is that the lunar month has a stable timing. In reality, there are four different kinds of lunar months, each with their own rhythm.
The time it takes for a lunar month to be complete varies greatly. Depending on how you measure a lunar month or what kind of lunar month you’re discussing, a lunar month can be anywhere from 27 to 29 days.
The moon has a ridiculously wide temperature range.
Most middle school teachers who talk about the moon make it sound like it has only one temperature: freezing cold. The moon doesn’t have enough atmosphere to keep the temperatures stable, and the temperature you could measure fluctuates heavily with mountains and craters.
If you were to grab an AstroReality LUNAR Pro and check out the augmented reality notes, you might notice how drastic the surface differences can be. These seemingly minor differences to the naked eye mean that moon surfaces can be as cold as -400 degrees Fahrenheit at the poles, to as high as 230 degrees Fahrenheit at the equator.
Shadows are darker on the moon.
Due to the lower amount of light that hits the moon’s surface, shadows that are cast on the moon are darker than shadows cast on the Earth. In the past, this has actually caused problems for researchers at NASA, as well as astronauts. The lower light means that many visitors to the moon tend to have a harder time seeing things around them.
The first recorded song in history involved the moon in its lyrics.
A lot of the things you didn’t know about the moon may involve science, but let’s not forget the moon’s impact on culture. The first recorded sound in history was captured in 1860 by French bookseller and inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville.
The history-making, 10-second phonautograph clip was from “Au Claire de la Lune.” The title translates into “By the Light of the Moon,” and talks about a man asking for light and an open door during the dead of night.
You can still see the footprints from the Apollo teams.
Since the moon has no atmosphere, that means that no gusts of wind really happen on the moon, either. No gusts of wind or strange weather means that there’s nothing on the surface of the moon to blow away footprints in the dust.
Knowing this, NASA has sent out orbiters to get photos of the lunar landing sites of the past. As recently as July, NASA has been able to get picture-perfect, crisp shots of the footprints left by crew from the 1971 mission, Apollo 14.
Finally, they actually have rules in place for how one can name lunar craters.
Lunar landmarks are really important to NASA scientists who want to learn more about the moon’s formation. It’s not shocking that they end up naming them like regular Earthly landmarks. You probably already knew this.
One of the things you didn’t know about the moon, though, is how strict rules are about naming lunar landmarks are. Over the centuries, astronomers have started to create traditions involving lunar landscape names. In 1645, the tradition started when Michael van Langren started to name lunar features after famous nobles.
By 1923, the International Astronomical Union teamed up with the British Astronomical Association to publish a “Who's Who on the Moon” list of landmarks and names that the IAU adopted for landmarks on the moon. The IAU now is in charge of lunar names, and they have a lot of fun with it.
The IAU currently chooses names after specific themes to fit with each astronomical object. The moon’s theme is focused on great people who accomplished a lot in their lifetimes. New features are being added daily, which is why interactive study tools focused on the moon like AstroReality’s LUNAR Pro still occasionally need updates.