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Fun Science: The Moon (Charlie McDonnell)

A not-very-in-depth look into why we even have a moon, and the effect that the moon has had on our planet. From the perspective of a science fan... rather than a proper scientist.

Every now and then, my mum comes out these little one-liners which really make me chuckle, and the other day I was speaking to her on the phone and she said, “people don't know enough about the Moon these days”.

I don't know how much you know about the Moon, and I honestly don’t know how important it’s gonna be to your life if you don’t know anything about the Moon at all. But for a while now I wanted to do a miniseries on YouTube in which I talk about sciency stuff that interests me, and I though, “you know what? if I ever gonna start doing that then the Moon is probably a good place to begin. So...

Fun science, fun science, fun science is the science of fun! Yeah.

Now, the obvious question to start with is, how did the Moon get there? And all those scientists have a pretty good idea of how the Moon came to be. It’s just that, it’s a pretty good idea and nobody is 100% certain.

The Moon is a bit tricky to figure out because it’s so freaking big. In fact (a bit of jargon) it’s the biggest satellite relative to its primary planet in the entire solar system. For example, Jupiter, (a) bloody massive planet, got a 63 millions going around it but relative to the planet the Moons are little specks of dust floating around, whereas our Moon is about a quarter of the diameter of our planet, which makes it very big and very confusing. For example, a past theory wass that the Moon must have come in from some random bit of space and got caught in orbit by the Earth’s gravity, but because the Moon is so big, it would have just flown straight past.

The best idea the scientists have currently is often called “the giant impact hypothesis”, which is a a great name for a hypothesis. If I was a hypothesis that’s what I’d wanna be called. The hypothesis goes that a long long time ago, back when the Earth was just a baby, covered in a bubbly magma ocean, this body, this protoplanet, comes flying in from nowhere, but the size of Mars, crashes into the Earth and sends stuff just everywhere, just stuff.

Bits of Earth are going everywhere, bits of the protoplanet are going everywhere, and gravity sees it and it’s like, “ooh, stuff, I wanna pull that stuff together”, and so it does, and most of the stuff from this big collision goes into make the Earth, while a little bit of it goes up to make the Moon, and that is the best idea that we have in terms of how the Moon came to be.

Now, when you look up at the full Moon, during your romantic picnic in Paris or during your werewolf cycle or whatever, what you’re actually looking at is called the Lunar Nearside, because it’s “Luna”, like the Moon, and it’s the near side, cause it’s the side near us, obviously.

The mad thing though, is that we only have seen that one face of the Moon and from here it doesn’t look like it’s spinning. But in fact, the Earth and the Moon are spinning around in a kind of harmony. The Moon does one rotation on its axis for every orbit it does around Earth, which results in the Moon rotating but constantly looking at us all the time, like a kind of overbearing parent.

And if you think that strange, what’s even more interesting is that the Moon’s orbit is in no way perfect, it’s actually slowly moving away from us every single year. And not only that, but because the gravity of the Moon has an effect over the spin of the Earth, as the Moon gets slowly further and further away, the spin of the Earth is actually starting to slow down and our days are becoming longer.

Fortunately though, the Moon is only moving away from us about 4 centimetres every year, which results in a slowdown of the Earth of about 15 microseconds a year. So you’ll be long dead before you see any kind of noticeable change, so don’t worry about that.

One more fun Moon fact before I go. You may have heard of a guy called Dennis Hope, who calls himself the interim president of the galactic government, for real, and who claims to own the Moon, which is pretty cool, or would be pretty cool if he actually did, but he doesn’t.

In fact, space law dictates that under the Moon Agreement, this is all for real, Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become the property of any State, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization or non-governmental entity, or of any natural person.

So Dennis Hope, who thinks he owns the Moon, is a silly head.

And that’s it, everyone, Fun Science, I hope you had fun. If you want me to do more of these then suggests in the comments a bit of science that you’d like me to do. And if you don’t want me to do any more of these I’m sure you’ll let me know. You usually do. That’s the end.

You’ve just had the almost imponderable joy of watching charlieissocoollike, which makes you, like, cool!


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