Distance from the Earth to the Moon

The Moon, the Earth's nearest neighbor in space, is about 240,000 miles away

In comparison, the Sun and the other planets of the Solar System are millions of miles from us.

The stars are trillions of miles away.

The Moon is so close that you can see details of its surface with just a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars.

If you look at the full Moon with only your unaided eyes, you will be able to see a pattern of light and dark areas

In some cultures, people have thought that these patterns resembled a face. For many centuries, there have been legends about the Man in the Moon (or Man on the Moon).

Different cultures on Earth have different explanations for these patterns. For example, there are Chinese myths about a rabbit that lives on the Moon.

Size of the Moon

The Moon has a diameter of 2,160 miles, a little more than one-fourth that of the Earth.

Because of its relatively small size, the force of gravity on the Moon is only one sixth of that on the Earth.

A person who weighs 120 pounds on Earth would weigh only 20 pounds on the Moon. If you can jump up 4 feet on the Earth, you would be able to jump to a height of 24 feet on the Moon.

Movement of the Moon

The Moon rotates on its axis in exactly the same length of time that it revolves around the Earth. This means that it always keeps the same side turned toward the Earth.

Luna 3, a Russian space probe, obtained the first view of the Dark Side of the Moon on October 4, 1959.

Because the Moon turns so slowly on its axis, any given area of the Moon has about 15 Earth-days of sunlight followed by the same amount of darkness.

During the long day, the Moon's surface temperature rises to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius). It goes down to about 243 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale (153 degrees below zero, Celsius) at night.

Phases of the Moon

One of the most noticeable aspects of the Earth's Moon is the way it appears to change shape.

There are times when it will appear to be a thin crescent in the Western sky. At other times, it will loom over the eastern horizon like an enormous golden ball.

People all over the Earth have created stories to explain why the Moon goes through its phases - from New Moon to First Quarter, to Full Moon to Last Quar¬ter, and back again to new Moon.

Today, we know that the Moon's apparent changes in shape are due to two factors. One is that the Moon revolves around the Earth (is a satellite of the Earth.)

The other is that the Moon is a dark body, and shines only by reflected sunlight.

The Moon's appearance depends on how much of the lighted side we see.

When we see only a little of the lighted side, the Moon appears as a thin crescent.

It appears to grow fatter each night as we see more of the lighted side, until finally we see a Full Moon. Then, the Moon grows thinner again until it reaches its New Moon phase.

Water on the Moon

When Galileo looked at the Moon through his telescope, he thought the dark areas he saw were bodies of water, and he named them maria (singular: mare), which is the Latin word for "seas".

We now know that the maria are not seas at all, but dark plains of basalt - the remnants of volcanic eruptions.

For a long time, scientists believed that the Moon had no water at all.

Because the Moon has no atmosphere, liquid water cannot exist there because it would immediately evaporate.

However, in the 1990s, astronomers began to suspect that water might exist on the Moon in the form of ice.

Large amounts of hydrogen were found near the Moon's poles. Scientists thought that this hydrogen might come from water.

On October 9 2009, NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), was intentionally crashed into a crater on the Moon in order to see if the debris contained any evidence of water.

When the debris was analyzed, NASA researchers found that it did contain some water.