For millennia, the moon has been a source of endless fascination for humans. It is our only natural satellite and the largest visible object in the night sky, located approximately 240,000 miles from Earth. Poets have described its beauty, scientists and astronomers have studied it, and it is believed to affect our moods. The moon, however, is more than a pretty sight through a telescope – it plays an important role in the stability and viability of our planet.
In 1969, NASA took its “giant leap for humanity”, making history by sending a man to the moon for the first time. During its Apollo missions in the late 1960s and 1970s, the space program sent a total of nine missions to the Moon, six of which landed astronauts to explore the surface. The data gathered from the moon landings has not only helped scientists learn more about the moon itself, but also how it affects our own planet. Today, NASA has three robotic spacecraft orbiting the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which was created to create a 3D map of the Moon’s surface, and the two ARTEMIS space probes, launched in 2011 to provide data on the solar wind.
This ongoing research has greatly expanded what we know about the moon since that first NASA launch. Stacker has compiled a list of 25 things we have learned about the moon since 1969. Resources used include data from NASA, the Smithsonian and breaking news reports, in an effort to create a comprehensive list of these monumental discoveries on our universe.
The moon is lifeless
The moon is about 4.5 billion years old
Research has shown that the moon has no living organisms, including fossils or native compounds. There are some traces of non-biological organic compounds, but these are attributed to contamination from meteorites.
The moon is believed to have formed after a large object or series of objects slammed into Earth, with some of the material exploding out into space and creating our lunar neighbor. After Apollo astronauts brought back moon rocks for analysis, scientists studied ancient fragments of zircon and were able to determine that it happened around 4.5 billion years ago.
The moon is not primordial – it evolved
The moon is believed to be an evolved terrestrial planet made of rocky material that has been melted, crushed by meteorites and erupted by volcanoes. Its internal zoning is actually similar to Earth’s, with a thick crust, lithosphere and “partly liquid asthenosphere”, according to NASA. The moon is shrinking
After reviewing moonquake data collected between 1969 and 1977, scientists determined that about 25% of the moon’s seismic activity was generated by energy released from escarpments or stepped cliffs at the surface of the moon. This activity comes from the contraction of the lunar crust as it cools, which has caused it to shrink about 150 feet over the past hundreds of millions of years. There is water on the moon…
When Apollo astronauts first explored the moon, they thought it was a dry planet. However, in 2009, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter produced data showing water encased in ice. As the moon warms and cools throughout the day, these water molecules float around until they find areas cool enough to resettle on the lunar surface. …and not just in cold, dark places
NASA recently detected water on the sunlit parts of the moon. The agency’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) detected water molecules in Clavius Crater, located in the southern hemisphere, a sunlit side of the moon. The data indicated water concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million in one cubic meter of soil, which is roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water. The solar wind changes
The Apollo 11 mission was the first to deploy what was called the Solar Wind Composition Experiment, which involved a sheet of aluminum foil attached to a pole. The sheet was unrolled and exposed to the sun for 77 minutes, then collected and brought back to Earth for analysis. Data has been collected from the sheets over many years of Apollo missions, helping scientists determine variations in the composition and intensity of solar winds. The moon’s youngest rocks are as old as Earth’s oldest rocks
While Earth’s oldest surfaces are still repaved by geologic forces such as erosion and shifting tectonic plates, the moon’s surface exists with minimal disturbance. Moon rocks range from 3.2 billion years old in the darkest regions to nearly 4.6 billion years old in the brighter areas. The moon’s craters were caused by asteroid impacts
Summary of news:
- Since 1969, we’ve learned 25 things about the moon
- Check out all the news and articles from the latest space news updates.