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Earth and Moon Statistics

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  1. Earth and Moon Statistics By the Lunar and Planetary Institute For use in teacher workshops

  2. Earth’s Moon What’s the Moon like? What do people see when they look at the Moon?


  4. How Big is the Moon?

  5. Moon Size ~ 1/4 width of Earth Radius of 1080 miles Gravity ~1/6 of Earth’s

  6. Relative Size and Distance of Earth and Moon?;jsessionid=gfuzp418gewa?id=C-1979-00910&orgid=2

  7. Earth and Moon to Scale If Earth were a basketball, then the Moon would be a tennis ball, 23.5 feet away

  8. Moon Stats No light of its own!!

  9. Moon Rotation Spins on axis (rotates) once every 27.3 days Tilted ~7 degrees (Earth = 23.5)

  10. Moon’s Orbit Orbits (revolves around) Earth every 27.3 days Elliptical orbit (not a perfect circle) • 360,000 km 406,000 km • 224,000 miles 252,000 miles

  11. The Moon rotates in 27.3 days. The Moon orbits Earth in 27.3 days. Because the Moon rotates and revolves at the same rate, we only see one side The Near Side The NEAR side There is NO DARK SIDE There is a FAR side….

  12. And the Backside! The FAR side

  13. Phases of the Moon

  14. Solar Elcipse

  15. Moon Stats Moon’s orbit around Earth is inclined about 5 degrees to Earth’s plane of orbit around the Sun Ecliptic plane Moon’s orbital plane Moon Earth Sun Image created by LPI staff

  16. The Five Major Theories of Formation of the Earth’s Moon

  17. Evidence supporting the Co-accretion Theory • States that the earth and the moon accreted at the same time out of the same nebular material • In this theory, the proto-moon drew material out of the same nebular cloud as the earth in the same relative location as result, the two should be very similar in composition • Why it doesn’t work: The co-formation theory explains why the moon is located in its current location, but cannot explain the evidence that the earth and moon are composed of different materials.

  18. Co-accretion Image

  19. Did the moon form by Fission? • Theory proposed by Darwin • Based on fast-spinning primordial earth • Earth spun and flattened so quickly that it ejected a large piece of material, which eventually became the moon • Strengths: Isotopic ratio and Iron content similarities between Earth and Moon are explained • Flaws: Energy needed to cause loss of the material not supported by present day spinning of the earth

  20. TheCaptureTheory • Ring of dust around the earth slows the moon, which has already formed, allowing it to be captured into the earth’s gravitational field.

  21. Capture Theory Continued… • The Capture theory postulates that the moon was formed at another place and time in the solar system and while passing by the earth, it was pulled into the earth’s gravitational field. • Reasonable hypothesis because many moons surrounding other planets are actually captured asteroids and not objects that formed in place with the mother planet. A moon that is captured would most likely have a non-spherical shape. Ex. Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars

  22. The Moons of Mars (captured satellites)

  23. Why the Capture theory does not work • indicator that a moon has been captured would be if it orbited in a direction that differed from that of the mother planet, but our moon is rounded in shape and orbits the earth, the capture theory does not hold up. • The only piece of evidence supported by the capture theory is the difference in composition between the earth and the moon.

  24. The Colliding Planetesimals Theory • Hypothesizes that the moon condensed from the debris of planetesimaly sized objects that collided during the formation of the solar system • Limited evidence to support this theory. • Current lunar mission is studying this theory.

  25. The One that Works! The Collision-Ejection Theory aka: The Giant Impactor Theory

  26. What this theory is all about • hypothesizes that the moon was formed when a planetesimal the size of mars struck the earth, thereby ejected large volumes of matter from the earth. • disk of orbiting material ejected from the collision eventually condensed to form our moon in its orbit around the Earth.

  27. Origin of the Theory • The theory was proposed in the mid-1970’s, but was rejected by many scientists until 1984 when a conference evaluating the validity of theories of the moon left no doubt that the collision theory was the most likely possibility • New models of planet formation had suggested that giant impacts were not at all uncommon during the late stages of terrestrial planet formation.

  28. Collision Theory Images

  29. Why this theory works

  30. Explains the Lack of volatiles on the Moon’s surface • In order to explain the lack of volatiles on the moon, we would need an event which created a heat so high that all would have been vaporized. If an object the size of Mars were to collide with the forming Earth, the heat produced by this collision would provide a reasonable explanation as to why the moon’s surface characteristics imply that it has been ‘baked’ more than the earth.

  31. The Iron Core of the Moon explained • moon is also thought to contain a small iron core • The collision theory states that the moon would be able to retain the iron core even through the collision. • The earth’s Iron core had already undergone gravitational differentiation at the time of the impact, therefore, the debris ejected from the earth consisted of material from the iron depleted rocky mantle.

  32. Supports similarities in Oxygen isotopic ratios • The earth and the moon have exactly the same oxygen isotope composition while rocks and meteorites from different areas of the solar system have differing ratios. • The similarity in isotopic ratios supports the belief that the moon formed from material in the earth’s vicinity.

  33. Ultimate Fate of the Moon • The Moon is gradually receding from the Earth into a higher orbit • Calculations suggest that this will continue for about fifty billion years. • By that time, the Earth and Moon will become caught up in what is called a "spin–orbit resonance" in which the Moon will circle the Earth in about 47 days (currently 29 days), • Both the Moon and Earth will rotate around their axes in the same time, always facing each other with the same side. • Beyond this, it is hard to tell what will happen to the Earth–Moon system, considering that the Sun is expected to become a red giant approximately 5 billion years from now.