Hey Space Placers!
Today, 9/6/14 is "International Observe the Moon Night". This annual world-wide event is dedicated to getting people outside to look at the Moon. Events around the world are taking place as part of the event and be sure to check the website to see if any are in your area.
The DMV has several events taking place, especially at NASA facilities - so be sure to check.
The Moon is approaching Full phase and will be another Supermoon on the night of 9/8-9/14 as well as the Harvest Moon. I'll have more on that next week,
But go outside tonight and look at the Moon. We did this last night at Big Meadows Shenandoah National Park as part of my "Let's Talk About Space" program. We go out and observe the sky if it is clear after my talk, which last night was on "The Sky IS Falling-Space Rocks and You".
I'd like to share with you the main points about the Moon that I gave to the 25+ people last night.
The Moon is big. It would span coast to coast in the U.S.
When you look at the Moon what colors do you see? White and gray. The white is the original lunar crust made up primarily of a mineral called Anorthosite. The gray marks impact basins - places where a comet or asteroid slammed into the Moon billions of years ago and was flooded by the flow of lava from fractures within the lunar crust. These impact basins are large and the South Pole-Aiken Basin is one of the largest in the solar system spanning 1,600 miles across and almost 10 miles deep!
We also are pretty sure that the Moon formed due to a huge impact event involving the Earth and a Mars-size planet called Theia billions of years ago. Our planet had a ring system like Saturn's for about a million years or less while all of the debris from the impact orbited Earth. The debris eventually coalesced into possibly 2 moons which then collided to form the large Moon we have today.
Our Moon was much closer to Earth after it had formed, and would have been at least 50% larger in the sky long ago. What a sight that must have been! The tides on Earth would have been amazing because of the Moon being so much closer and our planet would have rotated faster with the day being only hours long instead of our 24 hour day we enjoy.
The Earth and the Moon are described by the European Space Agency as a double planet system because of their relative sizes to one another and their gravitational influences upon each other.
Do a google search on the Moon and you will find many websites dedicated to our neighbor in space. Be sure to visit Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and see the wonderful pics it has taken. NASA Goddard in Maryland is hosting an LRO event tonight.
Oh, and be sure to wink at the Moon tonight in remembrance of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. Neil has been gone for 2 years now and his family wanted people to do this in memory of him.
Finally, watch this video in the quiet of the night after you have looked at the Moon - its ALWAYS brings tears to my eyes because it is so beautiful.
Sky Guy in VA