Outside the earth’s atmosphere: Learning about the moon

KOIN 6 Weather Kids

Editor’s note: The KOIN 6 Weather team is presenting weather and science lessons to help serve our teachers and students as schools close across the nation amid the novel coronavirus response. Click here for more lessons, and click here for complete coverage.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – I’ll tell you, I would love to be pals with the cow that jumped over the moon. I have so many questions to ask!

Weekend Meteorologist Joseph Dames

Well, it’s nice to start a lesson with a reference to a nursery rhyme. Today we get to have a little extra fun because we are stepping outside of earth and focusing our attention on our dear pal, the moon. We are pretty familiar with the bright object in the night sky that keeps most of us dreaming about visiting one day. What is great about that, is you may actually achieve that goal if you decide to work hard to become an astronaut. In the meantime, let’s put our feet in the shoes of an astronomer for a day and learn a little bit about the moon.

The moon does have an atmosphere, but it is different than the atmosphere of the earth. The atmosphere of the moon is referred to as the “lunar atmosphere.” That lunar atmosphere is very thin and almost non-existent. It is labeled as an exosphere. You can learn about the atmosphere of the earth in this Weather Kids lesson. What does it mean to have such a sparse atmosphere? It won’t protect the moon nearly as well as the earth’s atmosphere. Which means, it can take a bit of damage from incoming debris. Have you noticed how the moon has a lot of scars? How about the temperature on the moon? Again, with a different type of atmosphere, comes a different type of living. The temperature reaches about 260 degrees Fahrenheit when it has some help from the sun, but in darkness, the temperature can drop to as low as -280 degrees Fahrenheit. Talk about a massive swing in temperature. That sure is hot and cold, right?

The moon on average is about 238,855 miles from the earth. Talk about a long trip. Even though the moon is that far away, it is in sync with the earth so much that we only see one side of the moon as it rotates and revolves around the earth. The other side is commonly referred to as the “dark side of the moon”. As the moon orbits Earth, different parts are in sunlight while other parts of the moon are in darkness.

It’s that changing of illumination that it appears that the moon goes through phases. When the sunlight is being reflected completely, from our vantage point of the moon, that is when we call the moon “full.” What is your favorite moon phase? I really like crescent moons. Something about the sliver of illumination is magical.

Phases of the moon “NASA”

Here is a list of fun facts about the moon from NASA:

The Moon has no rings.

Earth’s moon has no moons of its own.

Earth’s moon has a core, mantle and crust.

Our moon is the fifth largest of the 190+ moons orbiting planets in our solar system.

Twenty-four humans have traveled from the earth to the moon.

Twelve walked on its surface.

The last human visited the lunar surface in 1972.

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Information from NASA.gov contributed to this article

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