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50 Moon Facts to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

July 20th, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, a small step for man, but a giant leap for humankind. In the past 50 years we’ve learned so much more about our planetary satellite neighbor, and to celebrate this anniversary, we’re sharing some OUT OF THIS WORLD facts about the moon:

 

1. Our moon is the 5th largest moon in the Solar System

2. The moon is not part of Mars. 

3. The moon used to be part of the Earth, until a Mars-sized planetesimal hit our planet, sending a cloud of hot rock into space that eventually cooled, consolidated, and turned into our moon


Image Credit: Joe Tucciarone (via NASA)

4. Earth’s tilted axis is likely a result of this collision. 

5. Katherine Johnson, one of only a few black “human computers” employed by NASA for 33 years, calculated the Apollo 11’s trajectory to the moon and many other missions involving human space travel.


Image Credit: NASA

6. The moon used to look much, much bigger, because it was closer to Earth. Research suggests the moon could have been up to 12 times closer to Earth than it is now. 

7. Because it takes the moon ~27.3 days to both rotate and revolve around the Earth, we always see the same side of the moon. Before the space age, no one had seen the other side.

8. Without the moon, oceans on Earth would not have tides.

9. The moon not only causes tides in the oceans, it also causes tides in rocks



Image Credit: NASA/JPL




10. There is ice on the moon. It's primarily concentrated inside craters at the north and south poles.

11. We’re not totally sure where this ice came from.


Image Credit: NASA

12. Apollo 14 astronauts brought back an Earth rock from the moon (more on that here).


13. The moon has its own time zones. In 1970, astronomer Kenneth L. Franklin designed a watch that measures time based on the period it takes for the moon to revolve around the Earth. It’s called a lunation.

14. The moon is not round. It’s actually shaped more like an egg (or according to some, a lemon)




Image Credit: NASA/Goddard



15. Scientists recently found a large dense blob of metal below the moon’s surface. 

16. Moonbows are a thing. A lunar rainbow occurs when light from the moon illuminates the water in our atmosphere, creating a spectrum of color.
17. Moons that escape the force of gravity of their planets are referred to as ploonets.

18. The lunar ionosphere, a region of its atmosphere full of ionized gases, is surprisingly dense



Image Credit: NASA

19. Some soil on the moon is orange. Lunar geologists think these strange orange soils were formed from volcanic activity.  

20. Because the moon lacks an atmosphere, the moon does not have weather. Or any seasons.

21. The moon has MOONQUAKES.

22. In the 1950’s, the U.S. briefly considered nuking the moon. 

23. The near side of the moon looks different than the far side of the moon because it contains maria, a type of lava rock. 


Image Credit: NASA (via Giphy)

24. The moon is the perfect size for solar eclipses. If it were any larger or smaller, it would appear as a dot on the sun, or block out the sun’s corona. 

25. Some astronauts have had an allergic reaction/hay fever symptoms after interacting with moon dust.
26. There are over 190 moons in our solar system.
27. Billions of years ago, the moon had a magnetic field at least as powerful as Earth’s.
28. Astronauts have left a lot of objects on the moon, including golf balls, feathers, and bags of human waste.
29. The moon’s temperature can reach as high as 123 degrees Celsius, to as low as -233 degrees Celsius.
30. NASA has collected 2,200 samples of rocks, pebbles, sand, and dust from the moon’s surface.
31. There is a surprising amount of water locked inside minerals from moon rocks. 


Image Credit: Griffith Observatory

32. The 2017 American Elipse was viewed by over 215 million people. That’s nearly twice the amount of people that watched the Super Bowl that year.
33. Shadows on the moon are darker than they are on Earth. This is because on Earth, our atmosphere efficiently scatters light, meaning that shadowed areas are still slightly lit. Because the moon has no atmosphere, light isn’t scattered. 


Moon Trees History Where
Image Credit: Jesse Berry (via Wikimedia Commons)

34. In 1971, Astronaut Stuart Roosa transported 500 seedlings to the moon, and then back to Earth. These seeds were planted across the United States, and some still thrive today.
35. The moon is slowly drifting away from Earth, at a rate of about 3.78 cm per year.
36. The tallest mountain on the moon is Mons Huygens, at 18,046 ft (that’s about half the height of Mt. Everest).
37. All lunar craters must be named under a specific naming scheme.
38. Because there is no wind on the moon, footprints on the lunar surface are still intact and in pristine condition.

Image Credit: NASA

39. The moon is gradually slowing down the speed of the Earth’s rotation (our days increase by about 0.002 seconds each century)
40. The moon is surprisingly rich in a rare isotope called helium-3.
41. The moon is shrinking.


Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution


42. There are 78 movies that are either about the moon or are set on the moon including Men in Black 3, A Trip To The Moon, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
43. 30 Earth-sized planets could fit between the moon and Earth on average.


Image Credit: Science Bob (via ScienceBob.com)


44. You can teach moon phases with Oreos! Oreos have specific “Marshmallow Moon” Oreos that come with 3 different fun faces. They taste vaguely like Lucky Charms, but in a good way.

45. The moon landing was not faked. C'mon guys.
46. The original video of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing and the first human steps on the moon will be available on NASA TV at the actual times these two events took place 50 years ago – 4:02 and 10:38 p.m. respectively. The video also will stream live on Twitter, Periscope, YouTube, Facebook Live and UStream.


Image Credit: Shuran Huang (via NPR)

47. The Washington Monument will be lit up like Apollo 11 this week!
48. A felt-tipped pen saved the Apollo 11 astronauts.
49. It would cost $30 billion USD to go back to the moon. Do you think we should?
50. A Moon Pie has never been on the moon, but they really want to go. We 100% support this.


Image Credit: MoonPie



–Lissie Connors & Phoebe Sharp


Lissie Connors (@LissieOfficial) covers social media and writes about science in a slightly snarky manner for APS and PhysicsCentral. This fall she's moving to the Pacific Northwest to study geochemistry and challenge Bigfoot to a rap battle.


Phoebe Sharp (@phee_sharp) is the editor of the Physics Buzz blog, curating goofy puns and overachieving science topics. She is starting her Ph.D. in Physics Education Research in the fall and aims to finally crochet an appropriately sized sweater before next summer.

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