How Does the Moon Shine?


Quick Answer

The moon doesn't produce its own light, but it does reflect enough of the sun's light to cast a glow onto the Earth. The moon reflects so much light that it can even be seen during the day, during certain months.

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Full Answer

It is the fine particulate found on the moon's surface that gives it such highly reflective properties. Known as regolith, this powder-like sediment is composed of very small and rigid grains. The moon's position in relation to the Earth and sun determines how much of it is visible from Earth's surface and how much light it casts. This relationship is what causes different phases of the moon and what results in lunar eclipses, which happen when the Earth casts its shadow across the visible face of the moon.

However, the relationship between the Earth and the moon is much more than this, given the effect that the moon's presence has had on the Earth. Since its formation more than 4.4 billion years ago, the moon has exerted its influence on the Earth, slowing its rotation and lengthening each day by 2.3 milliseconds every hundred years. Over time, the moon has slowly pulled away from the Earth, at a rate of approximately 3.8 centimeters per year.

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