10 Spooky Facts You Never Knew About the Moon
That mysterious ball of rock 239,000 miles from Earth has inspired myths and superstitions for thousands of years. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Here, a few facts that will make you look at the night sky a little differently.
There’s a graveyard on the moon
Most of the 200 tons of trash on the moon is space junk and ephemera crash-landed or left behind by the 12 astronauts who have visited since 1969: abandoned satellites, spent rockets, cameras, backpacks, and golf balls. But here’s one of the more morbid moon facts: Among the detritus on the moon are the ashes of Eugene Shoemaker, one of the founders of the field of planetary science, sent skyward by NASA in a polycarbonate capsule. Here are some other odd things humans have left on the moon.
“Lunatics” can blame the moon
One of the moon facts from the Middle Ages is that scientists and philosophers believed that a full moon caused seizures and influenced episodes of fever and rheumatism. Because of the connection between the moon and unusual behavior, the afflicted were called lunatics, or, literally, “moon sick.”
The moon is disappearing
Each year, the moon’s orbit moves about four centimeters away from the Earth, meaning that in a mere 500 million years, the moon will be 14,600 miles farther away than it is right now.
There are fresh footprints on the moon’s surface
Man hasn’t set foot on the moon in more than four decades, and yet, fresh prints remain. Is this evidence of an alien life form? Is Bigfoot taking up extra-planetary residence? Nah, they’re just leftover astronaut footprints. Because there’s no wind or water on the moon, tracks can last millions of years.
A full moon might keep you awake
Ioana Davies (Drutu)/Shutterstock
In a small study from the University of Basel in Switzerland, subjects monitored closest to a full moon experienced less deep sleep, produced less melatonin, and took five minutes longer to fall asleep that those monitored during other times of the month. Sleep researcher Marie Dumont, who wasn’t involved in the study, suggests that the full moon could indirectly affect the internal body clock by increasing volunteers’ exposure to light in the evening. Check out these myths about full moons that you can safely ignore.
The truth about the blood moon
As many people witnessed in late September 2015, the moon really can turn an eerie shade of red under the right conditions. But despite werewolf warnings and apocalypse alerts, scientists define the so-called “blood” moon as a purely astronomical event when the earth casts a rust-colored shadow on the moon’s surface.
Shadows are darker on the moon than on Earth
Astronauts on the moon immediately noticed that their shadows were much darker there than on Earth. The atmosphere that scatters light to create shadows on Earth is absent on the moon. The sun and the Earth itself provide a little bit of light, enough for shadows to still appear, but the shadows are much harder to see. Even though scientists know these Moon facts, they still can’t figure out these 13 unsolved mysteries about the moon.
The moon experiences earthquakes (or moonquakes)
Just like the Earth, the moon has a crust that shifts and changes. Moonquakes can occur when the lunar crust warms and expands, or they can be triggered by meteorite impacts. While moonquakes don’t reach the same level of intensity as earthquakes, they can last much longer, because the moon has no water to combat seismic vibrations.
The moon has a time zone all its own
It’s called “Lunar Standard Time,” but it doesn’t correspond simply with a time on Earth. Time is quite different on the moon than on Earth; a year on the moon is divided into twelve “days,” each about as long as an Earth month. Each “day” is named after a different astronaut who has walked on the moon. The “days” are divided into 30 “cycles,” which are then divided into hours, minutes, and seconds. Oh, and the calendar started the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon: Year 1, day 1, cycle 1 began at July 21st, 1969 at 02:56:15 Universal Time. Here are more astronomy facts you never learned in school.
The moon experiences a huge range of temperatures
You probably think of Earth as located in the habitable, moderate zone of our solar system. Planets closer to the sun are far hotter, while the planets farther away experience frigid temperatures. But the moon experiences some pretty intense temperatures, on both ends of the spectrum, considering how close it is to our life-friendly planet. During the day, temperatures can be as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit. By the moon’s poles, though, the temperature stays around minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This disparity is thanks to the moon’s lack of an atmosphere. Now that you know these fascinating moon facts, read about the most baffling mysteries about the universe.