The Moon is familiar to everyone who looks up into the night sky or studies it. However, many aspects of it are still a mystery to scientists.

According to NASA, the Moon's volume is "2.197 x 1010 km3" (NASA, 2015), its mass is "7.3477 x 1022 kg" (NASA, 2015), and its density is "3.344 g/cm3" (NASA, 2015). The leading theory on the Moon's creation is that it formed from an impact between Earth and another planetary body, but Touboul et al. (2007, p. 1208) think that "either the Moon is derived almost entirely from Earth's mantle... or lunar and terrestrial materials equilibrated in the in the aftermath of the giant impact". If proven correct, Touboul et al.'s explanation of the Moon's origin would help scientists understand more about how it formed.

The Moon serves a strong role in maintaining life on Earth. NASA states that "the moon moderates Earth's wobble on its axis, leading to a relatively stable climate over billions of years" (NASA, 2015). This influence on Earth's spin helps make life possible because a stable climate helps life thrive.  

The Moon has long been known to influence the tides. In fact, "the moon actually CAUSES the tides" (NASA, 2015). Also, the Moon makes the tides rise and fall because its gravity pulls on Earth's water.

The Moon is lifeless even though it helps make life possible on Earth. This is because it has no atmosphere, and therefore no weather and no air. The lack of atmosphere ensures that the Moon is constantly bombarded by meteors. It also makes sure that it bears craters that form from these bombardments. Many craters pepper the Moon's surface, some large and some small. There are also large dark areas known as maria on the Moon. According to NASA, Galileo named them: "He thought the dark, smooth areas were seas, and called them "maria" (Latin for seas; "mare" is the singular)" (NASA, 2015). Today, we know that the maria are not seas: "The "seas" look flat from ancient lava flows" (NASA, 2015).

The Moon’s surface material is equally interesting.  Moon dust has penetrated vacuum seals, destroyed parts of astronauts’ suits, and damaged lunar equipment; most notably, the seals on the boxes used to bring moon rock back from Neil Armstrong’s famous trip were destroyed by the fine from moon dust.  Since there is no erosion on the moon, the impacts of meteors create tiny ultra-sharp jagged grains of moon rock that stick to and destroy almost anything.

There are many sources of information on the moon that will help astronomy students learn more about it. NASA's website features a section on the moon that is one of the most basic sources of information about it. The Fairmont State/Pierpont Library offers eBrary , which is an ebook resource that features many ebooks about the moon. Finally, The Lunar and Planetary Institute features the Digital Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the moon, which features many photographs which astronomy students will find useful.

 

  1. NASA, 2015. Earth's Moon. [online] Available at: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/moon [Accessed 19 April 2016].
  1. Touboul, M., Kleine, T., Bourdon, B., Palme, H., and Wieler, R., 2007. Late formation and prolonged differentiation of the Moon inferred from W isotopes in lunar metals. Nature [e-journal] 450. Available through the Fairmont State University Library website.  
  1. New Yorker, 2013, The Mystery of Moon Dust. [online] Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-mystery-of-moon-dust [Accessed 19 May 2016]

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