The Moon

The Moon

The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite and the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System. It is in synchronous rotation with Earth, always showing the same face; the near side is marked with dark volcanic maria among the bright ancient crustal highlands and prominent impact craters. It is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun, although its surface is actually very dark, with a similar reflectance to coal. Its prominence in the sky and its regular cycle of phases have since ancient times made the Moon an important cultural influence on language, the calendar, art and mythology. The Moon's gravitational influence produces the ocean tides and the minute lengthening of the day. The Moon's current orbital distance, about thirty times the diameter of the Earth, causes it to appear almost the same size in the sky as the Sun, allowing it to cover the Sun nearly precisely in total solar eclipses.

The Moon is the only celestial body on which humans have landed. While the Soviet Union's Luna programme was the first to reach the Moon with unmanned spacecraft in 1959, the United States' NASA Apollo program achieved the only manned missions to date, beginning with the first manned lunar orbiting mission by Apollo 8 in 1968, and six manned lunar landings between 1969 and 1972—the first being Apollo 11 in 1969. These missions returned over 380 kg of lunar rocks, which have been used to develop a detailed geological understanding of the Moon's origins (it is thought to have formed some 4.5 billion years ago in a giant impact event involving Earth).

She is the ruling planet of the first of the three water signs, Cancer.

She is the beautiful and fascinating part of the night sky, worshipped by primitive peope who had noticed the influence of its phases on their lives. For example, the Moon Goddess of ancient mythology, Diana, ruled nature and fertility, so pregnant women made offerings to her in the hope of an easy labour and a healthy child.

The gravitational pull of the Moon on the Earth creates tidal movements and determinues the feeding habits of sea creatures such as oysters. The menstrual cycle in women is strongly affected by the Moon, naturally occurring at either the New or the Full Moon and rarely in between. Accidents and crime rates and admissions to mental institutions all increase at the time of the Full Moon. Hence the term 'lunatic' which stems from the obvious lunar infulence.

The Moon transits through one sign in two to two-and-a-half days and its progression through each sign will result in marked changes in the mood of the masses and public opinion.

We are perhaps more aware of the Moon's movements than those of any other planet. We can see, very obviously, the waxing and waning phases of the Moon as it grows preogressively larger and smaller throughout the month. The relationship between the Sun, the Moon and the Earth is called the 'Lunation Cycle'. As the Moon orbits the Earth, it will reflect varying amounts of the Sun, depending on the angle between the two as look from Earth. At New Moon, the surface of the Moon is completely dark and at Full Moon it is completely lit up. Please view the Earth/Moon Viewer page to see how the Moon looks from the Earth - and vice versa - at the moment!

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Last updated by Simon on 10th December 2020  •