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The Moon – Why It Shines During Night

our moon image
Different Shapes of moon during one lunar month.

On most nights, you can see the moon in the sky. Sometimes it’s very bright, large and round. At other times, you might see only a tiny sliver of it or clouds might cover it. For thousands of years, people have watched the moon and told stories about it.

Moon Facts For Kids

  • The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite.
  • We always see the same side of the Moon.
  • The Moon’s gravity causes ocean tides on Earth.
  • There are mountains and valleys on the Moon.
  • The Moon has no air or atmosphere.
  • People first landed on the Moon in 1969.
  • The Moon’s size is about 1/4 of Earth’s.
  • The Moon doesn’t make its own light; it reflects sunlight.
  • There are “moonquakes” similar to earthquakes.
  • A full trip around the Earth takes the Moon 29.5 days.

Lunar phases

The moon doesn’t generate its own light but instead reflects sunlight, altering its appearance as it orbits Earth. These variations in appearance, known as ‘phases,’ can range from a thin crescent to a vibrant, full circle.

The changing visibility of these phases is due to differing amounts of sunlight reaching various parts of the moon, as observed from Earth, during its orbital journey.

This cycle of transformation, from new moon to full moon and back again, spans approximately 29.5 days, a period referred to as a lunar month. So, children, next time you gaze at the night sky, try to discern which phase the moon is currently in!

Apollo missions

Neil Armstrong, an astronaut from the Apollo 11 mission, made history as the first human to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. These strides were part of a series of NASA’s Apollo missions, a project initiated by the American space agency with the aim of safely landing humans on the moon and returning them back to Earth.

Between 1969 and 1972, six successful Apollo missions were carried out, landing a total of 12 astronauts on the lunar surface. These astronauts carried out various experiments, collected moon rocks, and even left behind an American flag among other items.

These missions significantly contributed to our understanding of the moon’s structure and composition, with moon rocks brought back to Earth revealing they were much older than any found on our planet, some even dating back to 4.5 billion years, the estimated age of the Earth itself!

Lunar eclipse

A Lunar Eclipse, an exciting astronomical event, occurs when Earth positions itself between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow on the moon’s surface. This celestial phenomenon only transpires during a full moon when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun.

Contrary to solar eclipses, lunar eclipses pose no danger to the naked eye. In a total lunar eclipse, the moon can take on a reddish hue due to the sunlight bending through Earth’s atmosphere, earning it the moniker ‘Blood Moon.’

The Lunar Eclipse is not only a fascinating spectacle to observe, but it also provides insights into the movements and spatial relationships of the Earth, moon, and sun.

Moon landing

The moon landing, an event that captivates children with its excitement, took place on July 20, 1969, as a part of the Apollo 11 mission. This mission, steered by American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, achieved the monumental feat of landing human beings on the moon for the first time in history.

This remarkable milestone was marked by Armstrong’s legendary statement, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ To commemorate this event, the astronauts placed an American flag and a plaque inscribed with ‘We came in peace for all mankind’ on the moon’s surface before their return to Earth.

Since this historic event, only 12 individuals, all of them American astronauts, have had the privilege of setting foot on the moon, making moon walking an incredibly exclusive achievement.

Craters

The moon, marked with countless craters, serves as a historical record of celestial impacts dating back millions of years. These large hollow pits, a result of asteroid and comet collisions, remain unchanged due to the moon’s lack of erosive weather phenomena like wind or water. The most colossal of these craters, the South Pole-Aitken Basin, measures an impressive 1,600 miles in diameter and 8.1 miles in depth – a distance comparable to that between Miami and Denver. Therefore, these enduring craters offer scientists a unique insight into the moon’s past.

Dark side of the moon

Contrary to the misconceptions implied by the term ‘dark side of the moon’, there is no part of the moon that remains perpetually in darkness. Sunlight reaches every part of the moon, albeit not simultaneously. This term is more appropriately referred to as the ‘far side’ of the moon, owing to its perpetual orientation away from Earth due to the moon’s rotation.

This unobserved hemisphere is characterized by a terrain markedly different from the side visible to us, with a higher count of craters and mountains. In fact, the tallest lunar mountain, Mons Huygens, is situated on this side. The far side of the moon was revealed to humans for the first time in 1959, courtesy of images transmitted by the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft.

Lunar module

The Lunar Module (LM), a spacecraft specifically engineered for moon landings, played a pivotal role in NASA’s Apollo missions during the 1960s and 1970s. Its design uniquely catered to the moon’s environment, starkly distinct from Earth’s, particularly given the moon’s significantly lower gravity.

This allowed the LM to require less power for lunar lift-off. Furthermore, it was exempt from needing to endure the heat and pressure that accompanies re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, as it was purposefully left behind after astronauts returned to the command module for their homeward journey.

The successful landing of astronauts on the moon’s surface by six different Lunar Modules cemented their status as iconic symbols of human space exploration.

Tides

The Moon’s gravitational influence significantly contributes to Earth’s tidal phenomena. As the Moon orbits the Earth, its gravitational force draws the ocean water towards it, causing the water to bulge out and result in a high tide.

When the Moon is directly above the ocean, the water level consequently increases. Interestingly, a secondary high tide also occurs on the diametrically opposite side of the Earth. This is due to the weaker gravitational pull the Moon exerts on this side, causing the water to bulge out as well.

Thus, the daily tidal pattern typically consists of two high and two low tides. So, the next time you notice a change in the water level while frolicking on the beach, remember to attribute it to the Moon’s gravitational effect!

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut renowned for being the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, achieved this monumental feat during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. His historical quote, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,’ echoed around the world, symbolizing not only his personal bravery and skill but also a significant leap forward in space exploration.

The moon, our closest celestial neighbor at approximately 238,855 miles away, is a dry and rocky surface with mountains and craters, bathed in reflected sunlight, and experiences extreme temperatures, from frigid nights to scorching days. The journey from Earth typically takes astronauts like Armstrong around three days.

Alongside Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong spent around two and a half hours on this harsh lunar landscape, leaving their footprints as they explored and collected samples before returning to their awaiting spacecraft.

Mare (lunar plains)

Lunar plains, often referred to as Mare, are extensive flat regions that cover approximately 16% of the Moon’s surface. The term Mare, rooted in Latin, translates to ‘sea’, a misinterpretation by early astronomers who thought these areas were water bodies.

Contrarily, they are immense plains, the result of prehistoric volcanic eruptions, subsequently filled by solidified lava. The iron-rich minerals within the basalt rock give these Mare a darker appearance than the highlands.

Among these areas, the Sea of Tranquility and the Sea of Rains stand out, the former being the famous landing site of the Apollo 11 mission, and the latter recognized as the Moon’s second-largest Mare.

 

Phases of the Moon - Science for Kids All About Our Moon
All About Our Moon: Different shapes of moon during one lunar month.

Scientists believe the moon was created 4.5 billion years ago when the universe was created. We’re not sure, but scientists think a large chunk of rock might have collided with the newly forming Earth and broken off a piece of the Earth, which created the moon.

Moon's Surface Image
Moon also has about 2 inches of dust on its surface. This dust probably falls from space and also comes from the crashes.

Fun Facts about Our Moon for Kids

  • On Earth, we have an atmosphere, or blanket of gas and liquid, that protects our planet from comets and meteors. The moon has no atmosphere so meteors often crash into it. The moon is covered with craters from these collisions. It also has about 2 inches of dust on its surface. This dust probably falls from space and also comes from the crashes.
  • Because the moon has no atmosphere, it gets very hot and cold. When the Sun is shining, the moon is 250 degrees Fahrenheit. When it is dark, the temperature reaches -280 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The moon orbits the Earth, but it is also spinning at the same time.
  • The moon takes about 29 days to orbit the Earth. During this time, your view of it changes, depending on the moon’s position.
  • The moon creates the Earth’s tides. On the side of the Earth that is closest to the moon, the moon’s gravity pulls the waters of the oceans up slightly, resulting in high tide.
  • The moon helps regulate our seasons and weather.
Moon Orbiting the Earth Image
The moon orbits the Earth, but it is also spinning at the same time.

Moon Vocabulary

  1. Sliver: a tiny piece
  2. Collide: crash, run into
  3. Meteor: falling rocks or debris from space
  4. Tide: the ebb and flow of water in the ocean
Neil Armstrong on the Moon Image
Neil Armstrong and 11 other American astronauts first walked on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Learn More All About Our Moon

Watch this cool video all about our moon:

A video explaining where the moon gets its light during the night.

Moon Q&A

Question 1: When was the first visit to the moon?

Answer 1: Robotic lunar spacecraft were sent from the USSR (Russia) to the moon in 1959. Neil Armstrong and 11 other American astronauts first walked on the moon on July 20, 1969. Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

 

Question 2: What is the largest crater on the Moon?

Answer 2: Bailly is the largest crater on the moon covering approximately 26 sq miles.

 

Question 3: How far away is the earth from the moon?

Answer 3: The earth is 384,000 km from the moon or 238,855 miles. It may look close at bedtime but its really far away.

 

Question 4: Is the moon hot or cold?

Answer 4: The moon has extreme temperatures because it has no atmosphere like we have on earth. So if you spend daytime on the moon you could fry eggs it gets so hot. Daytime temperatures can reach a whopping 100 degrees Celsius, boiling hot. At nighttime the temperature goes the complete opposite reaching a freezing -173 degrees Celsius.

 

Question 5: What are the different moon phases?

Answer 5: In total there are eight different moon phases. They are, New Moon – New Crescent – First Quarter – New Gibbous – Full Moon – Old Gibbous – Last Quarter and lastly Old Crescent.   

 

Question 6: How long does it take to travel to the moon?

Answer 6: I would have imagined weeks or even months but actually only takes about 3 days to travel to the moon.

 

 

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