Tomorrow is National Moon Day (July 20) and we are supposed to celebrate all things Moon related. Chances are, however, that you’ve missed this important holiday all of your life. Well, now is your chance to make up for your past lack of appreciation for our nearest space neighbor. And to have an excuse to party! After all, doesn’t a full moon usually bring out the best and worst in us? It’s when our awe of the heavens is highest and the most likely time the werewolves come out— assuming you believe in werewolves. Either way, it’s a good excuse to celebrate.
However, there are a few things about the Moon that you probably don’t know but should. Since so many here on Earth are once again obsessed with landing a person on the Moon (the last time was almost 50 years ago), you might want to brush up.
Frist, if you’re planning on going to go to the Moon, you might be running out of time. Did you know that the Moon is moving away from the Earth about 1.5 inches every year? That’s not exactly putting out the welcome sign. No big deal, you probably say, but try telling that to an astronomer. They think it’s a very big deal. Then again, they’re the ones warning us that the Sun is going to eventually burn out and leave Earth a lifeless tundra. They’re right, but they’re also the only people who worry about things that are going to happen millions of years from now. Somehow, I can’t get too excited about that or about the Moon moving away from us every year, inch by inch.
There is also no “dark side” of the Moon. Half of the moon is always bathed in bright sunlight just like here on Earth. Because of the way the Moon rotates on its axis, we only get to see one side of it – the near side. It’s the only side that ever faces us. As we watch the shape of the moon change from a full Moon to a crescent and eventually vanish, the reality is the other side of the Moon – the far side – is getting all the sunshine. But we never see it. Makes you wonder what’s happening on the far side. Are there mysterious creatures lurking about? Could it be that is where the recently discussed UFO’s are coming from? And did you know that China has actually landed a rover on the far side? No one else has. They may know a lot about what’s going on. Maybe we should ask them.
While there is no dark side of the Moon, there is some dark history. In the 1950s, the United States seriously considered detonating a nuclear bomb on the Moon. Next time you’re with some secret agent from the CIA, ask them about Project A119 and watch them go pale. Some politicians thought it would be a good idea to show the world how powerful we were by sticking a nuke in the Man in the Moon’s eye. Ouch! I wonder if they dropped the idea once that got wind of what was going on in Area 51. Make sure to ask your CIA buddy about that one, too!
And did you know the Moon is anything but round? It’s more like a pear or an egg. And because of that odd shape, it occasionally wobbles. Just like those toys kids play with that wobble but don’t tip over. We certainly don’t want the Moon to tip over. While we mere mortals on Earth can’t see the wobble, astronomers love to talk about it because it occasionally gives them a look at a slim slice of the far side. Exciting, huh? It certainly is to an astronomer.
Even more exciting, the Moon once had active volcanoes that spewed lava just like they do on Earth. The Moon also has earthquakes and water just like Earth. The Moon has tons of cool minerals and chemicals too. In fact, the real reason the U.S., China, Russia, India, Israel, and the UAE have been sending rockets and landers to the Moon is to figure out how they can profit from all the interesting stuff on the Moon. It seems that capitalism is a truly universal motivator!
Now, here’s a final fun fact: what do you know about the mysterious planet Theia? If your response is that it was the name of a planet in some Sci-Fi movie, you’re wrong.
Theia was a planet about the size of Mars that once wandered into our solar system billions of years ago and smacked right into the Earth! Rude. Or maybe just glanced it. No one I know was there to see, and as far as I know there is no CCTV footage either. It is believed that the Moon was formed as the debris from the collision came together and – presto! – we had the Moon.
So next time you look to the night sky at that white orb that changes shape and occasional color too, be nice. The Moon’s had a rough life while we sit on Earth, watching in amazement and wondering why our dogs howl at it.