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Moon Question of the Day

Why don't eclipses occur every month?

If the Moon always moved on exactly the same path, and if that path crossed in front of the Sun, there would indeed be an eclipse every month--two of them, in fact, one of the Sun and one of the Moon. But the Moon's path is more complicated than that, and most months it passes above or below the Sun.

Last 7 Days

    How much would you weigh on the Moon?

    Just multiply your weight (it doesn't matter if it's in pounds or kilograms) by 0.165. You'd weigh about 80 percent less!

    Has anyone else seen a Moon rainbow? If so, are they common?

    The lunary rainbow, seldom seen, is usually observable soon after dark, following a brief summer storm or shower, when the Moon is nearly full.

    What causes the distance from Earth to the Moon to vary?

    The celestial mechanics of the Moon's motion are very complex. When the distance to the Moon is measured at different times of the month, it is found to vary by more than 10 percent because the Moon's orbit is basically an ellipse, with Earth at one focus. The Moon may come as close as 356,334 kilometers (220,927 miles) to Earth's center and then move as far away from it as 406,610 kilometers (252,098 miles). The dates when the Moon is at apogee (the point in its orbit farthest from Earth) and perigee (the point in its orbit closest to Earth) can be found on each month's calendar page in The Old Farmer's Almanac. However, to understand the "mechanics," as mentioned above, we recommend consulting a basic astronomy textbook.

    How much would you weigh on the Moon?

    Just multiply your weight (it doesn't matter if it's in pounds or kilograms) by 0.165. You'd weigh about 80 percent less!

    Why does the Moon look so much bigger on the horizon than it does once it has risen higher in the sky?

    When the Moon is on the horizon, you have other objects, such as houses and trees, to compare it to, so it looks larger. Once the Moon is in the sky, the only things to compare it to are the stars, which appear as tiny points of light. Hence the Moon looks smaller once it has risen.

    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.

    On December 26, 1978, the Moon had a star resting on its tip. What was this called and how often does it happen?

    In the morning hours of December 26, 1978, Venus was totally obscured by the Moon, depending upon where you were standing. From some angles, it appeared the planet was resting on the Moon. Such a phenomena is called a "lunar occultation."

    Is it true that when the Moon is tipped on its side, it is going to rain or snow?

    According to folklore, if the new crescent Moon holds its points upward, able to contain water, you can expect a dry spell. If it stands on its points, expect precipitation to spill out.


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