Although it is erratic, the Moon is Earth’s nearest companion. Over the years, people have held the Moon responsible for tides, fertility, werewolves, and mental illness. We call it the Moon since it is essential to our night sky. Of course, it has gone by various names in many civilizations, some of which are still in use. Thanks to the Greek goddess Selene—whose Roman equivalent was Luna—the study of the Moon is known as Selenology. Change, the name given to the lunar missions of the Chinese space agency, was the moon goddess in ancient China. We’ve only discovered what we know about the Moon due to these investigations.
So, what has the evolution of the Moon been like so far? Let’s see for ourselves!
History of the Moon
Let’s take this opportunity to go back in time. About four and a half billion years ago, the debris of an impact on Earth created a large ball of magma that eventually became the Moon. The magma began to cool after the hot material solidified into a sphere, eventually producing a crust on the Moon’s surface with the magma just below it.
The debris was scattered as far as the other side of the Moon by a massive impact that struck the Moon’s south pole and created the South Pole-Aitken Basin. This impact signalled the start of a time when the Moon’s surface would undergo significant modifications.
One by one, more significant collisions changed the landscape throughout the evolution of the moon, some of which created sizable basins that later filled in to form the darkish maria areas of the Moon. They were normal craters at first, but due to the size of the impact and the relatively thin crust, they soon began to transform. Lava started to leak out of the impact cracks because the inside of the Moon had not yet completely cooled. The craters were eventually filled with lava by the following volcanic activity, which finally led them to cool down.
The maria reflect less light and seem darker than the neighbouring highlands of the Moon because of the high iron content of the basalt in the rock. On the side of the Moon, volcanic activity stopped around a billion years ago as the final major impact left its mark. Even though these impactors were much smaller than those that created the greatest basins, the Moon continued to be pounded by them.
Finally, we reached the Moon that we can see right now. The Moon looks unchanged to the human eye as a permanent record of its history and a window into how craters may have developed on Earth, even though the rate at which these impacts affect the surface has significantly decreased.
The moon We See Today
So essentially, after years and years of the evolution of the Moon, we got the Moon we see today. On a clear night, anyone looking above can see the impacts of the Moon’s evolution on its surface. The Moon is the only natural satellite of the planet and is currently moving away from it as it approaches Earth by 225,623 miles (363,104 kilometres). The Earth gained about 1.5 inches (4 cm) of the Moon’s distance yearly.
Here are some special moons that humanity has come to identify as the evolution of the Moon continues:
- The Supermoon is a full moon that is 14% larger than when it is the smallest and farthest away (due to being at its closest point to the Earth). Human eyes can’t actually tell the difference, despite the fanfare.
- A Blue Moon is also the third full moon of a season with four full moons. It has changed during the past century to be referred to as the second full moon. Both are unusual.
- During a lunar eclipse, a Blood Moon occurs as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow. A partially obscured Moon appears black as if something has eaten into it. However, all of Earth’s sunrises and sunsets drip through our atmosphere during totality to colour the Moon’s shadowed surface.
- It is a solar eclipse when the satellite is positioned between Earth and the Sun at the correct angle to throw a shadow on Earth’s surface. This occurrence, like lunar eclipses, is only conceivable because the Sun and the Moon appear to be of equal size in the Earth’s sky; if the Moon were closer or farther away, eclipses would not be possible.
Why do we need the Moon?
4.5 billion years ago, a Mars-sized asteroid collided with Earth, creating our Moon. When the debris had gathered to form the Moon, it launched into space as clouds. The Moon’s current appearance results from craters created by large asteroid impacts and erupting volcanoes on the Moon.
- The Moon is more than just a lovely celestial feature. It significantly affects how we live on the Earth.
- The Moon’s gravitational pull brings on tides. Plants and animals in tidal environments alternate between time spent in and out of the water. Tidal regions have had a significant role in the evolution of land-based animals and plants.
- The tilt of the Earth’s axis is 23.5 degrees, to be specific. The Earth would shake wildly without the Moon. The Earth’s climate would quickly change due to these changes in the tilt of the planet.
- The Moon stabilises the Earth’s tilt. The Earth’s current tilt causes a vast diversity of climates, from chilly pole climates to warm tropical climates. Numerous species can evolve thanks to this hospitable atmosphere.
To learn more about the Moon’s evolution, you can also check out this detailed YouTube video from NASA.
The time we thought about nuking the Moon
When the Apollo astronauts touched the Moon in 1969, most people concluded that the United States had defeated the Soviet Union in the space race. But for most of the competition, America lagged, and the outcome could have been quite different. The Air Force proposed a plan in 1959 called “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” that called for firing a nuclear weapon into the Moon for no other reason than to demonstrate military might. The administration, thankfully, decided against implementing the idea for humanity’s and the Moon’s benefit.
A recent study suggests that Earth’s Moon likely originated roughly 95 million years after the solar system’s initial solids had formed. The nearside of the Moon was volcanic up until around 1 billion years ago. Through our Moon’s evolution, it eventually cooled and was struck by smaller objects, giving it the pock-marked appearance it bears today. In terms of its host planet, the Moon of Earth is the largest in the solar system.
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