Q:

What is the purpose of the moon?

A:

Quick Answer

The gravitational pull of the moon controls the rise and fall of tides on Earth and slows the planet's rotation, while the phases of the moon serve as calendar markers for human beings. High tides occur on the portion of the Earth closest to the moon and the portion farthest away. Low tides occur between those two points.

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Full Answer

The moon's pull slows the Earth's rotation in what astronomers describe as tidal braking. This effect adds 2.3 milliseconds to the length of a full day each century. As it collects energy from the Earth, the moon moves further away from the planet at a distance of 3.8 centimeters per year.

The lunar calendar is based on the time that elapses between full moons. For centuries, many civilizations acknowledged that the moon's cycles influence everything from the female menstrual cycle to planting and harvesting times for crops.

Over the years, many have claimed that there is a correlation between full moons and erratic or aggressive human behavior. However, studies on the subject have found no connection between the two.

As human beings transitioned from rural, agriculture-based lifestyles to more urban lifestyles, they have, as a group, grown increasingly unaware of the cycles of the moon.

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Related Questions

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    What is the difference between a new moon vs. a full moon?

    A:

    The phases of the moon are determined by the angle at which sunlight approaches the moon relative to the position of the Earth. When the sun is behind the Earth, relative to the moon, full sunlight falls on the hemisphere of the moon that faces Earth. When the sun is behind the moon, relative to Earth, sunlight falls on the opposite lunar hemisphere.

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  • Q:

    Why do moon phases occur?

    A:

    The different moon phases occur from its revolutions around the Earth. The moon goes through distinct phases with one complete rotation around the world, including a new phase, first quarter phase, third quarter phase and full moon. Variations in light and shape of the moon change within these phases too, as the moon goes through a waxing gibbous stage en route to the full moon stage, then transforms into a waning gibbous before reaching the third quarter phase.

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    Why does the moon go through phases?

    A:

    The phases of the moon are caused by the relative positions of the sun, Earth and moon. The moon travels around the Earth, taking just over 29 days to complete a single orbit. The sun illuminates the moon from various angles as it changes position relative to the Earth.

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    Why do we have moon phases?

    A:

    Moon phases occur because the angle of the Earth, moon and sun changes as the moon orbits the Earth. One-half of the moon is always illuminated by the sun. As a person's angle of sight changes, different portions of sunlight and shadow are observed on the moon's surface.

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