Weird Science Factoid Special: The Moon

By Daniel Smith on Apr 7, 09 02:21 PM


We all love weird facts. In fact I know some of my half a dozen readers don't bother with the incoherent articles and head straight for the tasty tidbits at the end.

I'm not hurt, honest! Anyway, while interviewing Sir Patrick Moore (as you do) I asked him about his one true passion - the Moon.

What surprises me is we're still not 100 per cent sure how it got there.

Sir Patrick told me: "We know quite a bit about the Moon but there are things we don't know. Of course, Nasa is obsessed with searching for ice in lunar craters. They won't find it because there isn't any!

"All kinds of ideas have been put forward for the Moon's creation. The latest is the giant impact theory. A larger body, possible the size of Mars, crashed into the Earth and the Moon formed out of the debris.

"There are problems there, too. But then all the theories of the Moon's creation are so unlikely, it seems the Moon couldn't possibly exist!"


There are, however, a few things we do know, so here's a Weird Science Factoid Special on our lunar pal:

The distance between the Earth and its moon averages about 238,900 miles (384,000km). The diameter of the moon is 2,160 miles (3,476km). The Moon's mass is about one-eightieth of the Earth's.

The surface gravity of the Moon is only one-sixth that of the Earth.

The rotation of the moon takes the same amount of time as the moon takes to complete one orbit of the Earth, about 27.3 days. This means the Moon shows the same face to the Earth at all times.

The moon is not round. Instead, it's shaped like an egg. If you go outside and look up, one of the small ends is pointing right at you.

The moon orbits the Earth at an average speed of 2,300mph (3,700kph).

As you read this, the Moon is moving away from us. Each year, the Moon steals some of Earth's rotational energy, and uses it to propel itself about 3.8 centimeters higher in its orbit. Researchers say that when it formed, the Moon was about 14,000 miles (22,530km) from Earth. It's now more than 280,000 miles, or 450,000km away.

The moon's gravitational pull on the Earth is the main cause of the rise and fall of ocean tides.

The airless lunar surface bakes in the sun at up to 243F (117C) for two weeks at a time (the lunar day lasts about a month). Then, for an equal period, the same spot is in the dark. The dark side cools to about -272F (-169C).

More than 400 trees on Earth came from the Moon. Kind of. In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa took a bunch of seeds with him on the trip. Later, the seeds were germinated on Earth, planted at various sites around the country, and came to be called the Moon trees. Most of them are doing just fine.


The Moon's heavily cratered surface is the result of intense pummeling by space rocks between 4.1 billion and 3.8 billion years ago.

The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite. Right? Yes it is. Sure, scientists have discovered a 5km-wide rock orbiting the planet called Cruithne, which is often called the Earth's second moon, but that's just being silly.

Cruithne takes 770 years to complete a horseshoe-shaped orbit and will remain in a suspended state around Earth for at least 5,000 years.

Back in 2002, astronomers through they had discovered a 'third' moon. But the object - called J002E3 - turned out to be part of Apollo 12's Saturn V rocket. D'oh!

The Moon is bigger than Pluto. And at roughly one-fourth the diameter of Earth, some scientists think the Moon is more like a planet.

Neil Armstrong's footprints will remain on the Moon's surface for 10 million years.

When Alan Sheppard was on the Moon, he hit a golf ball and drove it 2,400ft, nearly one half a mile. Fore!

Phew! Stick a fork in me, I'm done! There's lots I left out so you never know there might be a part II.

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith - a long time ago, in a galaxy far away just north of Watford, Daniel fancied himself as a scientist but turned out to be the worst scientist since that bloke who mapped out all those canals on Mars that turned out to be scratches on his telescope's lens. Luckily, he is now not working on the Large Hadron Collider inadvertently creating a black hole that would swallow the world but is safely behind a desk writing this blog, bringing you the fantastical underbelly of nature... weird science.

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