Facts that you did not know about our Moon

By Saikiran Kumbhar

Most of the planets in our Solar System have moons and Earth has only one. Many languages have bonny locution for Moon; its ‘Lune’ in French, ‘Mond’ in German, ‘Selene’ in Greek, and ‘Al-Qamar’ in Arabic. We call moon “the Moon” because for a long time it was the only one, we knew until Galileo discovered the Jovian moons.

Here are some interesting facts that you did not know about our Moon.

1. The fifth-largest natural satellite in the Solar System

The Earth’s Moon is the fifth largest moon in the Solar System with a mean diameter of 3,474.2 KM. It was formed long ago when a Mars-sized object crashed into Earth. It has plains, mountains and also has many craters that get formed when space rocks hit the surface at a high speed.

2. The Moon encloses a huge temperature range.

The temperature at the lunar equator ranges from a very high of 127°C during the daytime to an extremely low of -173°C at night. During a lunar eclipse, as the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow, the surface temperature can plunge about 300°C in less than 90 minutes. The temperature is near -240°C in some of the deep craters near the moon’s poles.

3. Moon once shared a magnetic field with Earth

From the samples of Apollo missions, scientists figured out that the Moon once had a magnetosphere. Like Earth, the heat from the Moon’s formation would have kept iron flowing deep inside, creating a magnetic field. Over time, as the Moon’s interior cooled, our natural satellite lost its magnetosphere and eventually its atmosphere. Without the magnetic field, the solar wind stripped the atmosphere away. The field must have diminished significantly 3.2 billion years ago, and dissipated by about 1.5 billion years ago.

4. Moon has an atmosphere

The Moon has an atmosphere, called an exosphere, but it is very thin and tenuous. It consists of some unusual gases, including sodium and potassium. At sea level, we breathe in an atmosphere where each cubic centimeter(cc) contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules; whereas, the lunar atmosphere has less than 100,000 molecules in the same volume; an infinitesimal amount of air when compared to the Earth’s atmosphere. An instrument called LACE (Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment) from the Apollo 17 mission detected small amounts of several atoms and molecules including helium, argon and possibly neon, ammonia, methane, and carbon dioxide.

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