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Astronomy 101 Final Project
due Saturday, December 19,2009
David Martin – Computer Information Systems Associate Degree – Web Management Specialty – Expected Dec 2009 Ask any kid, “Wheres the moon?” and you will get the same reaction about 90% of the time. (Don’t check that fact anywhere, please… That’s not the point) They will look up in the sky and point. If they are old enough, they will say in their youthful voice, “Up there, Daddy! Up there…” They will point to that magical place up above. To the wonderful place where Hey Diddle Diddle’s “Cow Jumped Over The Moon”, myths of a man in the moon, and even that some of our cheese is stored, there are many wonderful folk tales that highlight our wonderful Moon. Did you really believe some of those tales at one point in your life? Maybe even for a second? Yeah, me too. But, where does the moon really come from? Can you tell me more about it? Of course I can! Dive right in and enjoy!
Origin of the Moon
Three major classical theories have been proposed for the origin of the moon: formation of the moon by fission from the earth; formation while orbiting near the Earth; and formation far from earth, with later capture by the Earth. Formation of the moon by fission from the Earth The Moon was once part of the Earth and somehow separated from the Earth early in the history of the Solar System. The present Pacific Ocean basin is the most popular site for the part of the Earth from which the Moon came. Formation while orbiting near the Earth
The Moon and the Earth condensed together from the original nebula that formed the Solar System
Formation far from Earth, with later capture by the Earth The Capture Theory: The Moon was formed somewhere else, and was later captured by the gravitational field of the Earth.
Ok, so now you have to pick one. Which one explains how our Earth formed? For me, I want to think it was the result of gravity and an amazing energy force created the mass. So, do you ever wonder what the Earth is made out of? Is it possible that the moon is made of cheese and the USA government is hiding the true facts about the cheese and secretly launching spaceships to harvest that cheese and then bring it back to earth? It seems there are varying opinions on that question.
What is the moon made of?
The moon contains deposits of metal at the surface. After testing these moon rocks, scientists were surprised by the abundance of Siderophile elements a.k.a “iron loving” elements and Chalcophile elements a.k.a. “copper loving” elements.
The Core Like the Earth, the moon has a core. It composes about 20% of the diameter (about 225 miles) of the Moon and contains only about 2 – 4 percent of the Moon’s total mass. The core is made up of iron-rich rock. The Mantle Scientists believe that the mantle of the Moon is largely composed of the minerals olivine, orthopyroxene and clinopyroxene. It's also believed to be more iron-rich than the Earth's mantle. The Crust The crust of the Moon is composed mostly of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum. There are also trace elements like titanium, uranium, thorium, potassium and hydrogen. Ok, very good. Now we know that the Moon is not made out of cheese, know that there is still a chance that a cow could have jumped over it, and we know there is no way a man could survive on the moon. But, did you know why the moon is so important to our Earth? Well, I didn’t until I took this awesome Astronomy course. (Brownie points? ) The moon has such a profound effect on the Earth, that I think that sometimes we don’t give it enough credit. A lot of us are so intrigued by Mars and “martians”, exploring other universes, and forget to appreciate how the Moon above truly has an impact every day on our planet. Without it the Earth would spin at a different axis, water would not have the same properties on Earth, and many other things that we sometimes take for granted would not be possible.
The Moon’s Effect on Earth
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways that the moon influences Earth is by examining the records of ocean tides. This happens in amazing fashion and it helps to create a very unique environment in our solar system. The regular rise and fall of our sea level is directly caused by the interaction of the Earth and the Moon! Tides are created because the Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, just like magnets are attracted to each other. The moon tries to pull at anything on the Earth to bring it closer. Many authors and scientists attribute the moon and the Earth collided at one point in time and this is the cause for a stable axial tilt. The earth rotates on a 23.5 degree tilt because of the gravitational pull of the moon. This has lead to many diverse and healthy climate regions all over the Earth and is the reason for our beautiful rainforests, our icy polar regions, and our vast deserts. Perhaps one of the least obvious ways that the Moon has had an impact on Earth is running deep in the veins of our diverse culture.
Ever heard of a Moon Pie? Did your mother read a book called “Goodnight Moon” to you when you were sitting in her lap? I’m sure most of us have tried to do the “Moon Walk”, by Michael Jackson. For me though, after a good work out and friendly basketball game at the St. Charles Old Men’s Basketball League, a Blue Moon will be very welcoming. After hanging out with “the Melster”, “Ed the Lawyer”,”Q” the Police Chief, and many more characters, I might take it easy…of course I would be listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to relax. Then, I would watch Tom Hanks don his space suit to become one of the original Apollo 13 crew. Speaking of movies: During everyone’s favorite holiday movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, George Bailey tells his love, “You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey that’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.” After such examples, I think you probably get the point. The moon has touched our lives and had such an impact on our life that we sometimes forget each and every way it makes ordinary things seem extraordinary. Future Missions If I were in charge of prioritizing future planetary missions, I would have to agree with most that we
should explore Mars as an option to settle colonies. Because it is costprohibitive to visit planets that are farther away, I also think it is important to take into account the price of each mission into the priorities. Although I would agree with the masses, I would also push for a return to the Moon. There is just something about man conquering the moon that is glorious and so right. It is our destiny to explore and we need to be able to learn about the moon and other planets as much as we can. There are amazing opportunities for humankind in the billions of other stars and their unique systems, however first we must visit the moon again, and again, and again. NASA has announced plans to establish a permanent colony on the moon between 2020 and 2024. Not only will this will be a costly project, scientists have to be able to overcome the fact that there is no food, no air, and no water. With 96% of the moon’s atmosphere being carbon dioxide, the atmosphere is in no shape for us oxygen breathers. Not only is the atmosphere unwilling, but the range of temperatures is from 20 degrees Celsius to 140 degrees Celsius! One can only imagine the sense of accomplishment in stepping foot on another moon, as I can imagine that this was the fantasy of many of our ancestors, the past astronomers, and space geeks alike. The fantasy of past generations has turned into technological reality and future generations will establish colonies on the moon and beyond!
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