Moon Moon symbol
Full moon
A full moon as seen from Earth's northern hemisphere
Adjective lunar, selenic
Shortest distance from what it orbits 363,104 km  (0.002 4 AU)
Longest distance from what it orbits 405,696 km  (0.002 7 AU)
Longest distance from the center of its orbital path
("semi-major axis")
384,399 km  (0.002 57 AU)
How long it takes to complete an orbit 27.321 582 d  (27 d 7 h 43.1 min)
How long an orbit seems to take
(from the central body)
29.530 589 d  (29 d 12 h 44 min 2.9 s)
Average speed 1.022 km/s
Angle above the reference plane
5.145° to the ecliptic
(between 18.29° and 28.58° to Earth's equator)
What it orbits Earth
Size and other qualities
Average radius 1,737.10 km  (0.273 Earths)
Distance around its equator 10,921 km (equatorial)
Surface area 3.793 × 107 km²  (0.074 Earths)
Volume 2.195 8 × 1010 k  (0.020 Earths)
Mass 7.347 7 × 1022 kg  (0.012 3 Earths)
Average density 3,346.4 kg/m³
Surface gravity 1.622 m/s² (0.165 4 g)
Escape velocity 2.38 km/s
Turning speed 4.627 m/s
Angle at which it turns
(in relation to its orbit)
1.542 4° (to ecliptic)
6.687° (to orbit plane)
How much light it reflects 0.12
Surface temp. Min. Avg. Max.
equator 100 K 220 K
85°N0.3em 70 K 130 K 230 K
Seeming brightness
("apparent magnitude")
−2.5 to −12.9
−12.74 (mean full moon)
Pressure 2.25  × 10-12 torr
Moon merged small
The Moon as seen from Earth. This a nearly full moon

The Moon (Latin: luna) is Earth's satellite, and we can usually see it in the night sky. Other planets also have moons or "natural satellites".

Our moon is about a quarter the size of the Earth. Because it is far away it looks small. The gravity on the moon is one-sixth of the Earth's gravity. It means that something will be six times lighter on the Moon than on Earth. The Moon is a rocky and dusty place. The Moon drifts away from Earth at the rate of four centimeters each year.


The Moon is lit up by the sun as it goes around (or orbits) the Earth. This means sometimes people on Earth can see the whole Moon and other times only small parts of it. This is because the Moon does not send out its own light. People only see the parts that are being lit by sunlight. These different stages are called Phases of the Moon.

It takes the Moon about 29.53 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes) to complete the cycle, from big and bright to small and dim and back to big and bright. As the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, this phase is called the New Moon. The next phase of the moon is called the "waxing crescent", followed by the "first quarter", "waxing gibbous", then to a full moon. A full Moon occurs when the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the Earth. As the Moon continues its orbit it becomes a "waning gibbous", "third quarter", "waning crescent", and finally back to a new moon. People used the moon to measure time. A month is approximately equal in time to a lunar cycle.

Mond Phasen Combined
The phases of the Moon

The moon always shows the same side to Earth. Astronomers call this phenomenon tidal locking. This means that half of it can never be seen from Earth. The side facing away from Earth is called the dark side of the Moon even though the sun does shine on it—we just never see it lit.

History of exploring the Moon

Aldrin Apollo 11
Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon in 1969

Before people stood on the Moon, the United States and the USSR sent robots to the Moon. These robots would orbit the Moon or crawl on its surface. The robots were the first man-made objects to touch the Moon.

Humans finally landed on the Moon on 21 July, 1969. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, landed their lunar ship (the Eagle) on the surface of the moon. Then, as half the world watched him on television, Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the Eagle and was the first human to touch the Moon as he said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Even though their footprints were left on the moon a long time ago, it is likely that they are still there, as there is no wind or rain, making erosion extremely slow. The footprints do not get filled in or smoothed out.

More people landed on the moon between 1969 and 1972, when the last spaceship, Apollo 17 visited. Eugene Cernan of Apollo 17 was the last person to touch the moon.


Because it is smaller, the Moon has less gravity than Earth (only 1/6 of the amount on Earth). So if a person weighs 120kg on Earth, the person would only weigh 20kg on the moon. But even though the Moon's gravity is weaker than the Earth's gravity, it is still there. If person dropped a ball while standing on the moon, it would still fall down. However, it would fall much more slowly. A person who jumped as high as possible on the moon would jump higher than on Earth, but still fall back to the ground. Because the Moon has no atmosphere, there is no air resistance, so a feather will fall as fast as a hammer.

Without an atmosphere, the environment is not protected from heat or cold. Astronauts wore spacesuits, and carried oxygen to breathe. The suit weighed about as much as the astronaut but because the Moon's gravity is weak, it was not as heavy as on Earth.

In the Earth, the sky is blue because the blue rays of the sun bounce off the gases in the atmosphere, making it look like blue light is coming from the sky. But on the moon, because there is no atmosphere, the sky looks black, even in the daytime. And because there is no atmosphere to protect the moon from the rocks that fall from outer space. These meteorites crash right into the moon and make wide, shallow holes called craters. The moon has thousands of them. Newer craters gradually wear away the older ones.

Origin of the Moon

The giant impact hypothesis is that the Moon was created out of the debris from a collision between the young Earth and a Mars-sized protoplanet. This is the favored scientific hypothesis for the formation of the Moon.

Water on the Moon

In 2009 NASA said that they had found a lot of water on the moon. The water is not liquid but is in the form of hydrates and hydroxides. Liquid water cannot exist on the Moon because photodissociation quickly breaks down the molecules. However, from the image NASA received, there is a history of water existence.

Legal status

During the Cold War, the United States Army thought about making a military post on the Moon, able to attack targets on Earth. They also considered conducting a nuclear weapon test on the Moon. The United States Air Force had similar plans. However, both plans were brushed-off as NASA moved from a military to a civilian-based agency.

Even though the Soviet Union left remains on the Moon, and the United States left a few flags, no country has control over the Moon. The U.S. and Soviet Union both signed the Outer Space Treaty, which calls the Moon and all of outer space the "province of all mankind". This treaty also banned all use of the military of the Moon, including nuclear weapons tests and military bases.

Related pages


Moon for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.