Moon Question of the Day

Who were the Roman and Greek goddesses of the Moon and the sea?

Diana was the Roman goddess of the Moon. She was a "multipurpose" goddess, presiding over the hunt and childbirth, among other things. In her incarnation as Moon goddess, she was known as Luna. Artemis was the Greek goddess of the Moon. Gods, not goddesses, ruled the sea -- Neptune in Roman mythology and Poseidon in Greek.

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How old is the Moon?

The Moon is approximately 4.6 billion years old.

Is the temperature colder during a full Moon?

Air temperature is not affected by Moon phase. It is affected by the season and whether there is a cloud cover, among other things. On a clear night, heat rises from Earth if there is no cloud cover holding it in. This might make you think it's colder because there is a full Moon, but it's really colder just because the sky is clear.

Is a spring tide the same as a neap tide?

No. Spring tides usually occur twice a month at the new and full Moons, when the Sun and Moon are in a straight line with Earth. Neap tides usually occur twice a month as well, but at the first quarter and last quarter Moons, when Earth is at right angles to the Sun and Moon. Spring tides are lower- and higher-than-usual tides, whereas neap tides are in the moderate range.

What would happen if Earth's rotation started to slow down?

Earth is already slowing down and has been doing so for billions of years. At the present time, our planet is slowing down by about .002 second per century. The slowing occurs mainly because of friction between solid earth and ocean tides. Earth's loss of rotational energy is transferred to the Moon, which goes into a wider orbit, thus lengthening the time between successive full Moons.

What is the most recent year that had a full Moon on February 29?

This occurred most recently in 1972. This is indeed a rare event, since the next most recent year was 1820.

Has the Moon always been the same distance from the Earth?

No. It is drifting away from us, but it is doing so very slowly. It will not be appreciably farther away for hundreds of millions of years.

What have our astronauts left behind on the surface of the Moon?

Well, there's quite an inventory. Of course, there's the American flag, left by the first visitor, Neil Armstrong. The first Apollo landing crew also left a commemorative plaque. The remains of seven unmanned lunar probes, Surveyors 1 through 7, are there, plus three lunar rovers. There are six long-term scientific stations on the Moon, which include seismometers to measure tremors in the Moon's crust and some reflectors to bounce back light beams that we send up there. The Russians left several unmanned probes and assorted lunar rovers on the Moon as well.

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