Moon Facts – Yours, Mine and Theirs

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Facts About Moons

– Yours, Mine and Theirs

It’s our closest celestial neighbour, gave us our first ever calendars, dictates the timing of religious events like Easter and Ramadan, and was considered a deity in most ancient religions. Here are ten things you might never have guessed about our moon and others.

10. It doesn’t make us mad…


The words “lunatic,” “lunacy” and “loon” all come from the word “luna,” meaning moon. The moon’s effect on tides was noted as long ago as over 300 years BC, and the Ancient philosophers Aristotle and Pliny the Elder believed that the brain was mostly liquid, and that the full moon could cause tides in our brain, which would make us go temporarily insane. In popular culture and general belief, the full moon is a trigger for insanity. But there’s no scientific evidence that the lunar cycle has any effect on our behaviour. In the 1980’s, a psychologist and an astronomer teamed up to do what’s probably the most thorough investigation to date into whether the moon really does make us mad. They analysed 37 independent scientific studies and found absolutely no link between strange happenings and the phases of the moon.

9. …but we think it does


But if the moon doesn’t make us mad, why do so many of us think it does? Partly, Hollywood is to blame. With so many horror stories and movies of werewolves and witchcraft based around the full moon, it’s difficult not to get a bit subconsciously freaked out by it. Psychologists blame something called “illusory correlation” for our persisting beliefs that luna makes us lunatic. Illusory correlation happens where we think there’s a correlation even when it doesn’t exist, and one of the reasons we fall prey to it is that we remember events clearly whereas non-events fade into the background. So if we believe, even subconsciously, that people go a bit funny around the time of the full moon, and we see something that ‘proves’ that, we forget about all the times there was a full moon and nothing happened at all.

8. And the full moon does make things a bit weird


Werewolves might not be real, but at least one  “wereplant” is. In the full moon,Ephedra foeminiea plants secrete a sugary liquid which shimmers in the moonlight, attracting insects which feed on the sugar and leave pollen behind, which E foeminiea then uses to fertilise its seeds.

And a study carried out by researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland discovered that on full moon nights, people took longer to get to sleep, slept for a shorter time and reported that they “had not slept as well.” The study was carried out on volunteers who were shut away from natural light for days at a time, and so couldn’t know it was fill moon or be affected by the extra light. EEG readings from these volunteers showed that a type of brain wave called delta waves, which occur during deep sleep, were 30% lower when the moon was full.

There is a theory that in times gone by, when human lives were dictated by natural light, we wouldn’t have slept as well during the full moon, just like it isn’t easy to fall asleep in a bright room nowadays. A lot of mental illnesses can be exacerbated by sleep deprivation, so it follows that maybe the “lunar lunacy effect” was real once, even if it’s not real anymore.”

7. We’re not done discovering moons


By definition, a moon is an object locked in orbit around a planet, or even around an asteroid. While we have just one moon, there are at least 182 in our solar system. Mars has 2, Neptune has 14, Uranus 27, and Jupiter and Saturn have a staggering 67 and 62 moons respectively. Many dwarf bodies also have moons, and new moons are still being discovered. The last moon to be discovered was the 14th moon of Neptune, which was discovered by a team of researchers at the SETI institute on 15 July 2013, and is currently known as S 2004 N1 ahead of being officially named. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the International Astronomical Union has been responsible for naming any new moons. Before that, moons were generally named by the astronomers who discovered them, but not always – Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, was discovered in 1655 but not named until 1847.

6. We don’t know how the moon formed, but we think it might have been an astronomical car crash


The most widely accepted theory as to how our moon formed is the Giant Impact Hypothesis. As the Earth was forming, another planet called Theia, about the size of Mars, smashed into it. The Earth and the smaller planet (the impactor) fused together, and the collision would explain why the Earth is inclined at 23° rather than vertical. After the crash, a pile of debris was blasted off the Earth, which started to orbit due to the planet’s gravity and eventually coalesced to form the moon. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that many, but not all, of the most common chemical elements that make up the Earth are also found on the moon, and the similar age of the Earth and the moon. But there are other theories. Like that the moon formed somewhere else and was “captured” by the Earth’s gravity, or that the Earth captured several tiny planets (planetesimals) which coalesced to form the moon.

5. Our moon is unusually big, and nearly as old as we are


The Earth’s moon, Luna, is the fifth largest in the solar system. But of the eight largest moons in our solar system, seven of them orbit the “gas giants,” Jupiter and Saturn, the largest planets. In general, big moons orbit big planets and small moons circle small planets. Dactyl, a tiny moon that orbits an asteroid, is the smallest known moon, being less than a km in diameter. Luna’s total mass is 1.2% of the Earth’s, making it unusually large in relation to our planet.

Analysis of rock samples brought back from the Apollo missions means we know the surface of the moon is made up of the mineral plagioclase, which are the “highlands” or pale areas we can see, with darker “maria” or “seas” made of basalt lava. The oldest part of the moon is the highlands, and the oldest known moon rocks are 4.46 billion years old – almost but not quite as old as we are, with the Earth thought to be 4.56 billion years old. Both of these facts lend support to the Giant Impact Hypothesis.

4. Everyone thought the space race was a massive waste of time and money


For a human to walk on the moon was a sensational achievement- such an achievement, in fact, that many people believe it never happened and was staged as part of a Cold War propaganda conspiracy. Given the enormous success at the end, it’s easy to imagine that the whole world was moon mad – especially in the US, which had lost the first leg of the space race when Russia’s Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. In fact, space flight was one of the top things Americans wanted cut in the 1960’s, with up to 66% of Americans believing that the government was spending too much money on it. At a time when people were living with the fear of real war from an enemy whose full capabilities were unknown, it’s probably unsurprising that sending people to the moon seemed a bit of a flight of fancy.

In 2013, NASA chief Charles Bolden announced that Americans would not return to the moon in his lifetime.

3. When the first astronauts landed, they must have thought they’d stepped into a horror movie


The moon looks beautiful when we see it from here – but in many ways it’s a hostile place, and Armstrong and Aldrin would be forgiven for thinking they’d stepped into a nightmare when they stepped off Apollo 11 in 1969. For a start, the moon is covered in a fine, glassy, electrically charged powder, moon dust, which NASAastronauts claim was the biggest problem with their missions. Moon dust was so abrasive it could erode its way through three layers of Kevlar-like material on astronauts’ boots, and could clog up the joints on space suits, leaving astronauts unable to move their arms. Moon dust found its way in to the spaceship on astronauts’ suits and caused “moon hay fever.” In 2008, a team of scientists and doctors confirmed that it is toxic to the lungs and might be one of the biggest barriers to long-term stays on the moon.

A less dangerous but no doubt just as alarming feature is the moon shadow. Shadows on the moon are much darker than on Earth, being almost but not quite pitch black. Astronauts report not being able to see their own hands and feet, and even more freakishly, a light halo appeared around their shadows.

And given that someone’s remains were scattered on the moon in 1998, and the US government considered detonating a nuclear bomb up there in a cold war show of strength (Project A119),the moon feels a bit creepy.

2. …but we might be able to live there, in readymade “underground shelters”


But despite all these dangers, we might be able to someday safely reside there.

It sounds like something from an Isaac Asimov book, but according to researchers at Purdue University, in theory, we could build underground cities on the moon. When a volcano erupts, lava freezes around the edge first, to form a pipe-like border while the lava underneath continues to flow. The eventual result is a hollow “lava tube.” These are present on Earth, but are likely to be much more stable on the moon, due to a much lower gravity and less erosion. Under lunar conditions, lava tubes of up to several kilometres wide and hundreds of metres high would be stable, and data from a recent Japanese mission, Kaguya, has shown that large underground caves do exist beneath the surface. If any of these caves turn out to be stable lava tubes, they could be, as Prof Jay Melosh put it, “readymade shelter from cosmic radiation and small meteor strikes… they would greatly decrease the cost of creating safe habitats on the moon.”

1. We also might be able to live on someone else’s moon


Life as we know it on Earth has some very specific requirements in terms of temperature, the presence of certain chemicals, and of course, liquid water. Many of the moons in the outer reaches of the solar system contain hydrocarbons (chemicals consisting of hydrogen and carbon, like glucose), which are essential to life. Unfortunately, they’re just too damn cold to live on, or so we thought until 2012, when scientists discovered that Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and Enceladus, which orbits Saturn, have liquid water. Even though they are a long way from the sun, their planets and the moons close to them have such strong gravitational pulls that they create tides, and this “tidal heating” warms up the inside of the moon enough to stop water from freezing. Maybe in the future the International Astronomical Union will have to go beyond naming moons, and start designating postcodes as well.

Moon Facts

 – Yours, Mine and Theirs

FYI The Red Planet

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10 Interesting Facts About Mars

There’s something magical about the planet Mars that easily catches our eye and piques our interest. Whether it’s the blood-red hue, its similarity to Earth, or the possibility that we may one day be able to live on it, we always seem to find something new to love about our red neighbor.

 There’s a lot more to the planet than you may know however. Such as …

10. Mars Has Lower Gravity Than Earth


People suffering from obesity would be delighted to know that there is a very simple yet highly effective way of losing tremendous amounts of weight instantly. There’s no need for diets, exercise, pills, or even surgery. All they need to do is go to Mars.

Mars has lower gravity than Earth. To be exact, Martian gravity is 62% lower than that of our own planet. This simply means that a person weighing 220 pounds here on Earth would weigh around 87 pounds on Mars. That’s a difference of 133 pounds! And bouncing around an alien planet sounds way more fun than munching on salad.

Of course, the weight loss is artificial, as weight and mass are two very different things. Basically, gravity is determined by two important factors: mass and energy. The more mass and energy a planet has, the more powerful its gravity is. Earth is 1.8794 times bigger than Mars, so it has more mass and energy than the Red Planet. As such, it has stronger gravity. The more gravity a planet has, the “heavier” its inhabitants become.

If you’re curious to know how much you weigh on Mars, then head over to this page.

9. Mars Has Some Debris Here on Earth


As of today, there are 100 known Martian meteorites found scattered all over the Earth. For many years, scientists strongly claimed that these meteorites were of Martian origin, but they had no conclusive evidence to prove the veracity of their claims.

However, just recently, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover made a remarkable discovery that helped scientists proved, once and for all, that these Martian meteorites, such as the Black Beauty and the NWA 7533, indeed originated from Mars. Mars’ atmosphere contains two argon isotopes: argon-36 and argon-38. Aside from Mars, these two argon isotopes are also found elsewhere in the solar system. NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered that there is a ratio of 4.2 argon-36 to every single atom of argon-38 in Mars’ atmosphere (4.2 to 1). In connection with the Martian meteorites found here on Earth, scientists analyzed them and came up with the measurement of 3.6 to 4.5 atoms of argon-36 to very single atom of argon-38 (3.6 – 4.5 to 1).

In simpler terms, the argon ratio found on Mars’s atmosphere is nearly identical to the argon ratio found in the meteorites discovered here on Earth, proving that they are indeed of Martian origin.

8. Mars Has Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter


Just like Earth, Mars has four seasons. But unlike our planet, the seasons in Mars don’t have the same length. In the northern hemisphere of the Red Planet, spring lasts for 7 months, summer for 6 months, all for 5.3 months, and winter for 4 months.

Mars’ axis, like that of the Earth’s, is tilted away from the Sun. In fact, the Red Planet’s tilt is much greater than that of the Earth. Earth’s axis tilt is only 23 degrees, while Mars’ is 25 degrees.

Aside from the big four, Mars experiences two other seasons, called the perihelion and aphelion. Unlike the Earth, Mars’ orbit is greatly elliptical, which means that its distance from the sun is unstable. Perihelion is the season where Mars is closest to the Sun, while aphelion is when it is in its farthest. We don’t experience these two additional seasons because Earth’s orbit is almost perfectly circular. This simply means that our planet’s distance from the sun stays nearly the same throughout the year.

7. Mars Has the Biggest, Most Violent Dust Storms in the Solar System


People planning to colonize Mars might have an extremely difficult time succeeding in inhabiting this planet due to its big, violent dust storms. Mars might be small, but it sure is capable of producing the largest and most destructive dust storms in our solar system. NASA scientists first observed the violent storms in Mars through photos sent by Mariner 9 in 1971. This spacecraft was expected to send close-up pictures of the Red Planet, but the scientists were disappointed when it transmitted photos of a gigantic, violent dust storm ravaging the planet. It took a month before the storm subsided, and Mariner 9 was able to take and send back clear photos.

Scientists don’t know exactly why the dust storms in Mars are big, violent, and last for a long time. However, they do know that sunshine provides the fuel needed to create these destructive dust storms. Theoretically, what happens is that the dust particles present in Mars’ atmosphere absorb sunshine. They then raise the temperature of the atmosphere surrounding them. Afterwards, these heated dust particles travel to cold regions while produce strong winds simultaneously. Eventually, these winds gather more dust from Mars’ surface, and as a result, the temperature in the atmosphere increases even further. And since Mars is a global desert, it has an unlimited source of dust, hence the endless storms.

6. Mars Is a Two-Faced Planet


One very interesting characteristic of the Red Planet is that it has two faces: its northern and southern hemispheres are extremely different from each other. Mars is like two planets combined into one. The northern hemisphere of Mars is smooth and flat while its southern hemisphere is very rugged, consisting of numerous mountains and craters. Aside from that, the southern hemisphere has a thicker crust compared to that of the northern hemisphere.

There are many theories explaining the disparity between Mars’ northern and southern hemispheres. However, one highly plausible explanation that scientists have recently proven is that a single asteroid impact might have caused the duality of Mars’ appearance. Basing on the data provided by the Mars Global Surveyor and NASA’s Mars Odyssey, scientists were able to discover a huge crater hidden below a lava found in the northern hemisphere. This crater is gigantic, as big as Europe, Asia, and Australia combined!  After finding this crater,scientists ran a series of computer-simulated impacts to find out the size and velocity of the asteroid capable of creating such a massive crater. They came up with an asteroid that is the same size as Pluto and travelling at the speed of 32,000 kilometers per hour, which might have caused Mars to have two faces.

5. Mars Has the Biggest Volcano and the Tallest Mountain in the Solar System


We all know that Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain here on Earth. Now, imagine a mountain that is three times taller. That would be the tallest mountain in the Solar System—Olympus Mons of Mars. In addition to being the tallest, Olympus Mons is also considered the biggest volcano in the Solar System.

One theory that explains why Mars has many massive volcanoes like Olympus Mons is that its tectonic plates, or crust, rarely moves. This inactivity in tectonic plate movement allowed the magma that erupted from Olympus Mons and other Martian volcanoes to gather in the same surface. Eventually, these volcanoes stopped spewing magma after the Red Planet’s core cooled off. And without magma, Olympus Mons and other Martian volcanoes stopped increasing in length and size.

4.  Mars Is Going to Kill One of Its Moons in the Future


Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Out of these two, Phobos is going to be annihilated by Mars in the future. Compared to Deimos, Phobos is a lot bigger, with a diameter of 27 x 22 x 18 kilometers. One interesting fact about this Martian moon is that it orbits Mars three times daily, at the distance of only 9,378 kilometers! This distance is significantly lower compared to that of the Earth’s moon, which travels around our planet at the safe distance of 384,000 kilometers.

NASA scientists have calculated that every 100 years, Phobos is getting closer and closer to Mars at the alarming rate of 1.8 meters. Based on this movement, NASA has theorized that Phobos only has 50 million years left to live. It will ultimately dissolve into a ring or completely crash into the Red Planet.

3. Mars Once Had Rivers, Lakes, and an Ocean


When Giovanni Sciaparelli created the first map of the Red Planet in 1877, he included certain land features which he called canali, or “channels” in English. However, this word was mistranslated in some books — instead of “channels,” canali was translated into “canals”. This mistake led many people to believe that Mars had water. This belief was refuted when NASA’s Mariner proved that these “canalis” were just optical illusions.

However, recent findings made by scientists show that Mars indeed once harbored water. In fact, it once had rivers, lakes, and an ocean. New evidences prove that the McLaughlin Craterfound on Mars might have been a lake billions of years ago. This new claim was made after scientists found remnants of carbonates and clay on the McLaughlin Crater. Clay and carbonates are produced when there is water.

In addition, the Mars Express, which was sent by the European Space Agency (ESA), has found sedimentary deposits on Mars’ surface. These Martian sedimentary deposits might prove that Mars once had a big ocean billions of years ago. If Mars had a big ocean, then what happened to its water? There are two possible explanations presented by Dr. Jeremie Mouginot of the University of California. According to him, the water in this big Martian ocean might have changed into vapor or have been transformed and then hidden in a frozen state under the surface of the Red Planet.

2.  Mars Was Once Believed to Be Inhabited


If you tell people today that Mars is inhabited, they will surely laugh at you and tell you that you’re a fool. But if say the same piece of information a hundred years ago, people would have definitely believed you. Yes, people from the past strongly believed that the Red Planet was inhabited by Martians.

This false belief all started when Giovanni Schiaparelli, as stated above, created the first map of Mars. The land formation he saw on the surface of Mars, which he called “canali”, led many people to believe that Mars had water and inhabitants. This claim was further strengthened when, in 1888, people saw bright flashes on the surface of Mars. This bizarre phenomenon led many scientists to publish articles and books about the Red Planet. One particular book that contributed significantly to the belief of the existence of Martians was Camille Flammarion’s La planète Mars et ses conditions d’habitabilité. After reading this book, Percival Lowell, a wealthy man from Boston, became obsessed with Mars. He devoted his life to studying Mars, and he eventually came up with his own map of the Red Planet, which also featured canals. He published his findings in various magazines, newspapers, and repots. Lowell’s contributions further made the notion that Martians existed more famous to the public.

In addition, this false belief was further solidified when two men claimed that they were contacted by Martians. Many people believed them. In fact, the United States Navy strongly believed their claims that they agreed to help in contacting the allegedly existing Martians. Of course, they were unsuccessful in their quest of creating contact with the Red Planet dwellers since, as we all know, they do not exist.

1. Mars Might Have Been the Original Source of Life


While this claim might initially be very difficult to believe in, there actually is a legitimate study that supports it. Steve Benner of The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida believes that life on Earth might have started on Mars. Scientists believe that life started on Earth around 3.5. billion years ago, and that two elements—boron and oxidized molybdenum—were needed in order to give it the necessary kick start.

However, during the period of time when life on Earth was supposed to have begun, boron and oxidized molybdenum were nonexistent. At this time, the Earth had very little oxygen, and this element is needed for the creation of oxidized molybdenum. Furthermore, our planet was completely covered in water, and boron can only exist in places that are extremely dry.

Benner’s theory suggests that oxidized molybdenum and boron might have originally come from Mars. They eventually came to our planet by riding on Martian meteorites and asteroids. Furthermore, these Martian meteorites were examined, and it was discovered that they contained boron. This finding further proves that Mars might have truly been the original source of life.

 “You can read some good old-fashioned Science Fiction involving Mars (by Gwenny) THE RETURN TRIP BY CLICKING ON THE LINK below”






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The Red Planet