Our Moon

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The scientific consensus is that the Earth's moon formed four and half billion years ago. About 100 million years after the formation of the solar system, another small planet is likely to have collided with the Earth, resulting in the formation of the Moon.

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  • What color is the moon?

    Q: What color is the moon?

    A: The surface of the moon is generally a light gray color, although there are parts of the moon that are made up of dark gray rocks. The moon has a different appearance from the surface, from space and from the Earth.
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  • How did the moon get its craters?

    Q: How did the moon get its craters?

    A: The moon's circular craters are the result of flying objects such as meteorites crashing into the moon's surface. This contact is known as an impact, and the resulting crater is officially known as an impact crater.
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  • How was the moon formed?

    Q: How was the moon formed?

    A: The most popular theory regarding lunar formation is that a Mars-sized planetoid slammed into the Earth and flung molten debris into orbit around 40 million years after the solar system was created, according to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This is called the giant impact theory.
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  • How did NASA know it was safe to land on the moon?

    Q: How did NASA know it was safe to land on the moon?

    A: There was a lot of build-up to the first manned moon landing, including several unmanned missions to the moon flown by the space programs from both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Based on the data gathered during these missions, NASA scientists were able to develop procedures and equipment that would be most likely to lead to a safe manned mission to the moon.
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  • What is bigger: the Earth or the Moon?

    Q: What is bigger: the Earth or the Moon?

    A: The Earth is much bigger than the moon. While the Earth is measured at 8,000 miles in diameter, the Moon only measures 2,160 miles in diameter. This means that if the Earth was hollowed out, the Moon could fit inside it 50 times.
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  • What happens during a lunar eclipse?

    Q: What happens during a lunar eclipse?

    A: A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth passes between the moon and the sun. Lunar eclipses cast a shadow on the moon due to the Earth's location. From the perspective of the moon, the Earth completely blocks the sun.
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  • What causes a crescent moon?

    Q: What causes a crescent moon?

    A: Crescent moons happen when Earth, the sun and moon are positioned in a way that only shows a portion of the reflected light on the moon. The result is a crescent-shaped light pattern.
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  • What is the difference between the Earth and the moon?

    Q: What is the difference between the Earth and the moon?

    A: One of the many differences between the Earth and the moon is simply that the Earth is a planet and the moon orbits the Earth as its satellite. The Earth's circumference is 24,873.6 miles, while that of the moon is 6783.5 miles.
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  • What is the moon made of?

    Q: What is the moon made of?

    A: The lunar crust is made of 43 percent oxygen, 20 percent silicon, 19 percent magnesium, 10 percent iron, 3 percent calcium and 3 percent aluminum. The moon's core is thought to consist of iron, sulfur and nickel, with the largest middle layer, or mantle, composed of olivine, clinopyroxene and orthopyroxene.
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  • How many phases does the moon have?

    Q: How many phases does the moon have?

    A: The moon has a total of eight individual phases. Four of these phases are considered to be the moon's main phases. The remaining four phases are considered to be the moon's transitional phases.
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  • How long does it take to get to the moon?

    Q: How long does it take to get to the moon?

    A: The Apollo 11 astronauts on the famed 1969 mission took 3 days, 3 hours and 49 minutes to go from launch to close lunar orbit, typical of manned missions. Unmanned spacecraft employ a much wider range of travel times.
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  • Is the moon moving farther away from Earth?

    Q: Is the moon moving farther away from Earth?

    A: The moon is in fact gradually drifting away from the earth. Each year, the moon spins almost 4 centimeters farther from the earth, which makes the earth's day just a bit longer. While this 1.48-inch movement will eventually add up to a big change, it will take billions of years to make a significant difference to life on earth.
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  • What is the temperature on the dark side of the Moon?

    Q: What is the temperature on the dark side of the Moon?

    A: Temperatures on the dark side of the moon average around negative 280 degrees Fahrenheit. This is do in part to the moon's lack of an atmosphere; there is no insulation to hold heat (on the far side) or soften the sun's rays (on the sun facing side).
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  • Why does the moon look orange?

    Q: Why does the moon look orange?

    A: Any time the moon appears orange in the sky, it's because of light diffusion and refraction in the atmosphere. When the moon is low in the sky, the blue light reflected from its surface is scattered in the dense atmosphere, giving the moon a reddish-orange cast.
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  • Do more 911 calls happen during a full moon?

    Q: Do more 911 calls happen during a full moon?

    A: Police officers and emergency room workers may provide anecdotal proof that 911 calls increase during a full moon, but there isn't any hard evidence to back up this assertion. Though many people assume that there is a connection between the full moon and crazy behavior, scientific research does not support this assumption.
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  • What is the meaning of a yellow moon?

    Q: What is the meaning of a yellow moon?

    A: When the moon appears orange or yellow, it simply means that the observer is looking at it through more layers of atmosphere. Similar to the way in which the sun will look orange or red on the horizon, when the moon is low in the sky, the light from it will have to pass through more of the blue-absorbing atmosphere to reach the viewer's eye. By this time, only yellow, orange and red light will remain unabsorbed.
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  • What is the difference between a new moon and a full moon?

    Q: What is the difference between a new moon and a full moon?

    A: When the moon is full, the moon is at its brightest, and the entire disk is visible. New moons occur when the Earth comes between the moon and the sun, resulting in a moon that is completely obscured by the Earth's shadow and is barely visible in the night sky.
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  • What are the phases of the moon?

    Q: What are the phases of the moon?

    A: The phases of the moon are: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent. After the waning-crescent phase the moon returns to the new-moon phase and the cycle starts again. The complete cycle takes a little over 29 days.
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  • How bright is the moon compared to the sun?

    Q: How bright is the moon compared to the sun?

    A: Just as day is brighter than night, the sun is much brighter than the moon — 400,000 times brighter, to be exact. That's compared to even the fullest, brightest full moon. From an astronomical standpoint, this is no surprise. The moon doesn't generate its own light, and the burning sun provides the vast majority of all the natural light on earth.
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  • How much of the moon is always lit by the sun?

    Q: How much of the moon is always lit by the sun?

    A: Half of the moon is always lit by the sun, unless the sun is eclipsed by the Earth. The portion of the illuminated moon viewed from Earth depends on the moon's orbit. As the moon orbits, different portions of shadow and illumination are seen from Earth, creating the moon's phases.
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  • How many Apollo missions landed on the moon?

    Q: How many Apollo missions landed on the moon?

    A: Six Apollo missions, specifically Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, landed on the moon between 1969 and 1972. Apollo 13 was also supposed to land on the moon but failed to do so due to a spacecraft malfunction.
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