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Importance of Our Moon

Introduction

The moon has been the subject of wonder, story, rhyme, and song since the beginning of mankind. People’s fascination with the moon has extended to fairy tales and myths, religious ceremonies, hunting and farming rituals, boating routines, and romance. The moon has been a fundamental element of human culture which is understandable given that if the moon did not exist, neither would humans. The moon allows and sustains life on Earth, affects its tides daily, and though not a mystery to the same degree as it had been throughout all of history, it continues to inspire the imagination. I have often looked at the moon with wonder and awe but didn’t really didn’t know what it was or why it was wonderful. Now, I know.

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Why a Month is about a Month Long

Today, people more or less look upon the moon as ‘eye candy’ and pay little attention to its cycles. This was not the case for our ancestors who carefully monitored their movements. Several calendars of ancient civilizations were based on the cycles of the moon and some are currently such as the Islamic calendar. The date of the Chinese New Year is set by the cycle of the moon. The Sun was used by man until relatively recently to measure short intervals of time but the moon was judged more reliable for long time measurements. What is commonly known as a month is based on the 29-day cycle of the moon. The term ‘month’ is derived from the term ‘month.’ “Without the moon’s cycle we might have ended up with a very different way of keeping track of time, and we most probably would have called it something other than a month” (Miles & Peters, 2001).

Moonlight Really Isn’t

The Earth’s sky appears to be blue because its atmosphere diffracts light in such a way that produces this familiar illusion. The moon has no atmosphere therefore its sky appears as it actually is, black. The gravity on the moon is much less (one-sixth) than on Earth. An illustration of the difference could be seen when U.S. astronauts were bouncing around on the moon during the Apollo missions beginning on July 20, 1969. The second man on the moon, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin hit a golf ball that he said traveled “miles and miles” (Heiken et al, 1991). Located about a quarter-million miles from Earth (an average of 238,857 miles), the moon rotates around the Earth once every 27.3 days. Because the same face of the moon appears to Earth-bound gazers, a common misperception is that it does not spin on its axis as does the Earth. “Both the rotation of the moon and its revolution around Earth takes 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes. The moon takes as much time to rotate once on its axis as it takes to complete one orbit of Earth” (Hamilton, 2005).

Earth gave Birth

Precisely how the moon was formed has been a long-standing mystery and still remains just a theory. However, for the past quarter-century, the majority of scientists have agreed upon a likely scenario. According to the general consensus opinion, about four and a half billion years ago, a planet or asteroid about the circumference of Mars collided with the Earth, striking it indirectly. The impact sent the Earth spinning and the part of the Earth’s crust that was disengaged from the impact began circling the Earth much in the same way Saturn’s rings revolve around that planet. This material now caught in Earth’s gravitational pull was made up of both the upper layer of the Earth and the object that struck it. Eventually, this material coalesced into one large mass, the moon (Heiken et al, 1991). This is a viable theory but not the only one. Some scientists theorize that the moon was created by an indefinite means far from Earth then became trapped in a gravitational orbit around the Earth when it passed close by. A hypothesis closely related to the ‘impact theory is that “gravitational interactions between the Earth, the Sun, and other developing planets simply tore Earth apart and the moon formed from this debris” (Britt, 2001). Still, most scientists suggest the ‘impact theory’ as being the most probable. Though such a cosmic event was common in the early stages of the solar system, it is very improbable in its present stage of development. “The last stages of planetary accumulation were very violent. An event of this type within 100 million years of the birth of the solar system is not rare at all” (Britt, 2001).

Tides are a Space Hug

The combination of the Sun and moon’s gravitational pull on the earth causes the ocean’s tides. The term ‘tides’ describes the “alternating rise and fall in sea level with respect to the land. Tides are the periodic rise and falling of large bodies of water” (Cooley, 2002). Much the same as magnets attract, the moon and Earth attract each other thus creating tides. The force of the moon’s influence attempts to draw the Earth closer which has little effect on the solid regions but is able to move the liquid portion of the Earth. Because water is constantly in motion, the Earth cannot control it therefore the moon’s gravitational pull is able to move it. Every day on Earth, two high and two low tides occur. Oceans are in constant motion, alternating from high to low tide then back again with approximately 12-hour intervals between high tides. Tides do not cause waves which are the result of currents and wind. The moon’s gravitational pull causes the oceans to ‘bulge out’ towards the current location of the moon and the opposite side of the earth as well. Because the Earth is pulled in the direction of the moon, water on both sides of the Earth is affected. On the near side of the moon, the water itself is pulled and on the other side, the Earth is being pulled away from the water. As the Earth, Moon, and Sun interact in this gravitational dance, ocean levels ebb and flow. (Cooley, 2002).

Conclusion

The moon has not only influenced the culture of mankind, but it is also likely responsible for the very existence of humans in the first place. The subject of stories, myths, and wonderment, the moon has directed the course of humans from the earliest beginnings. It is much more just a large light in the night sky that inspires romantic moonlit walks along the beach. It is the giver of life to no less a degree than the Sun or the Earth itself.

References

Britt, Robert Roy. “24 Hours of Chaos: The Day The Moon Was Made.” Space.com. (2001).

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Cooley, Keith. “Moon Tides.” (2002). Web.

Hamilton, Rosanna L. “The Moon.” Solar Views.

Heiken, G.; Vaniman, D.; French, B. (Eds.). Lunar Sourcebook: A User’s Guide to the Moon. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Miles, Kathy A. & Peters, Charles F. II. “What if the Moon Didn’t Exist?” Starry Skies. (2001).

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Importance of Our Moon'. 14 November.

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