How Does the Moon Rotate?


Quick Answer

The moon's rotation is the same as any other rotation, with the exception that one full rotation is completed in the same amount of time as one full orbit. This is a consequence of tidal coupling between the Earth and the moon. It has the effect of the moon presenting the same face to the Earth all the time.

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Full Answer

Both the orbit and the rotation of the moon are counterclockwise. The far side of the moon was not seen until 1959 when the Soviet Luna 3 probe landed. Apollo 8 gave the first human view in 1968. It is very different from the near side of the moon. The large basaltic plains of the near side turn into pock-marked craters on the far side.

The moon is responsible for tides on Earth. The pull of the moon's gravity creates high tides on the nearest side of Earth. The other side of Earth experiences a low tide at the same time. This creates a 12-hour pattern of high and low tides. The gravitational pull of the moon also stabilizes the slight wobble in Earth's rotation. Without the moon, the wobble of Earth might move it off its axis by almost 90 degrees.

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