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The Moon: Top 10 Questions

November 2011

Thanks to Jason Barnes, Professor of Physics, University of Idaho; and Daryl Macomb, Associate Professor of Physics, Boise State University for the answers.

1: Why is the moon important to the Earth?

The moon helps stabilize the Earth's rotation axis. The tilt of the Earth's axis causes the seasons. Without the moon, over hundreds of thousands of years, the intensity of Earth's seasons would change. Winters would be colder and summers would be warmer. These changes can cause ice ages or glaciers to move forward and back. (From Daniel in Mrs. Hudson's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

2: How big is the moon?

The moon is about one-fourth as big as Earth, but it's only one percent as massive as the Earth. (From Matt in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

3: How do stars form?

Stars are forming all the time. Gravity, which keeps us attached to the planet and causes the moon to orbit the Earth, is ultimately the cause of stars forming. If you have a nebula, a large ball of gas, and there is enough mass, gravity will shrink this gas ball down more and more and eventually most of the mass is built up in the center where a star is. (From Jack at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

4: Why doesn't the moon fall down?

The moon is falling down. The Moon falling keeps it in that stable circular orbit around the Earth. Any object that's in a circular orbit is there because gravity keeps it falling in that orbit. (From Hiram who is homeschooled)

5: Can the materials be removed from the moon and taken back to the Earth to study?

One of the great things about exploring the moon is that we have had the chance for humans to go there and bring back materials for study. The further away something gets, the harder it is to study. (From Christian in Mrs. McCamish-Cameron's class at Grace Jordan Elementary School in Boise)

6: What's on the dark side of the moon?

The dark side of the moon is the night side of the moon and is whichever half is night at a given time. Half the moon is day and half is night and it keeps changing. There is a far side of the moon, the half we can't see. The far side of the moon is all bright. There is hardly any dark material. (From Mahala in Mrs. McCamish-Cameron's class at Grace Jordan Elementary School in Boise)

7: Has anyone been able to film a meteor hitting the moon and forming a crater?

At this point, we have not yet seen an actual meteor hitting the moon. However, the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s took a bunch of pictures of the moon while they were orbiting around. Right now, we have another spacecraft orbiting the moon that's taking much better, high-resolution pictures. We want to compare the two pictures and see if new craters have been formed. (From Gerry in Boise)

8: Why does the moon have so much water to pull on the waves and tides, but does not pull up other stuff from the Earth?

The moon does pull up everything. Everything gets pulled by the moon, back and forth, the land, the water, and the air, but it's all differing amounts. Because the ocean gets pulled more, we see the affect of the tides more. We're being pulled too. We just don't see it because it's in relation to everything that's around us. (From Adria in Mrs. Chaffee's class at Valley View Elementary School in Boise)

9: Why do we have different shapes of the moon?

All the time, half the moon is in the sun and half is in the dark. We see different phases of the moon because we are seeing the shadow of the moon from different positions. What's important is where the moon is with respect to the Earth and the sun. You get a full moon when half the moon is completely illuminated and is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. (From Natalie in Mrs. Woodall's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

10: Why do we only see one side of the moon?

The moon spins around at the same rate in which it's orbiting around us. So, we see the same side all the time. (From Daniel in Mrs. Woodall's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)


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