Why does the moon change?
From time to time, TelescopeMan gets these types of questions about the moon:
Why does the moon change every few days?
Is the moon bigger than the sun?
What are those ROUND things on the moon’s surface in your telescope.
The moon is visible almost every day of the month, either during the nighttime or during the daytime. For something that we see almost every day the moon still holds many mysteries and fills our myth legends with everything from werewolves to love stories!
Even our speech has been affected. For instance the saying, “Once in a blue moon”, which originally was the name for the SECOND full moon within the same month.
The moon is about 250,000 miles from Earth, while the sun is about 93 MILLION MILES from Earth. This causes the apparent diameter of both objects to be about the same size. It’s just a trick of the eye and the vast distances between them.
The sun is millions of times larger than the moon; the distance makes it appear smaller.
If you look at the moon through a small telescope you can easily see the craters and mountains located there. Many amateur astronomers focus entirely on the moon and learn the names and locations of hundreds of craters and mountain ranges — we call them LUNAholics! Over the last few billion years the moon has been hit by large and small meteorites.
So many impacts that the surface is pulverized into a fine dusty granulate several inches deep. Larger meteors left huge impact craters measuring hundreds of miles across.
The Earth’s atmosphere protects us from many of the smaller meteorites, as they will burn up before reaching the ground. However since the advent of satellite photography we have spotted many eroded large impact craters on Earth.
Unlike the moon, where there is no erosion and surface features stay for billions of years, the wind and rain, and continental drift continually changes the surface of the Earth, removing or covering these large impact craters. Here are some links to satellite images of ancient Earth impact craters.
Finally why does the moon change? These are called the phases of the moon, and are caused by the moon orbiting the Earth every 29 days. I have posted a short video explaining how this works. It’s just a trick of the sun’s light– and the sun’s illumination shining on the moon, at various different times in the moon’s orbit around Earth.
Now that you know the answers to the questions I posted earlier– all we need to do is figure out what the moon has to do with ocean tides — but that’s another story topic.
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