Thursday, November 13, 2008

And What’s Inside the Moon?

Geologically, the moon is apparently as dead as it is biologically. Astronauts have left seismic instruments on the lunar surface, which have recorded only the slightest seismic activity, barely perceptible, in contrast to the exciting (and sometimes terribly destructive) seismic activity common on Earth and some other bodies in the solar system. It is believed, then, that the interior of the moon is uniformly dense, poor in heavy elements (such as iron) but high in silicates. The core of the moon, about 250 miles (402 km) in diameter, may be partially molten. Around this core is probably an inner mantle, perhaps 300 miles (483 km) thick, consisting of semisolid rock, and around this layer, a solid outer mantle some 550 miles (885 km) thick. The lunar crust is of variable thickness, ranging from 40 to 90 miles (64 to 145 km) or so.
The moon is responsible for everything from the earth’s tides to the length of our day, and perhaps the presence of seasons. Most astronomers think that the moon is with us today because of a gigantic collision early in the life of the solar system.
The moon’s gravity pulls tides across the earth’s surface, and its presence has slowed the rotation of the earth from a frenetic 6 hours to our current 24. Think of that next time you see the moon shining peacefully over your head.

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