Any expedition requires at least a modicum of understanding of the defining features of the journey and destination. In the case of the Moon, however, a professorship in all things Moon is necessary.

Fundamentally, two things must be firmly grasped: the Moon is not like Earth and we most certainly did not evolve there.

This being the case, just like when moving from the dark tropical jungles to wide equatorial plains, or from northern hills to the ice of the Arctic Circle, we’re going to need to do some adapting.

Every detail of that shining orb will need to be studied and digested before can call it home.

So to start things off, we’ve prepared some of the most significant scientific facts on the Moon.


The Moon’s gravity is 17%, or one sixth, of the Earth’s.


The Moon’s atmosphere is so slight that you’d be forgiven for saying it doesn’t have one.

The entire atmosphere has a total mass of 10,000kg, which is less than a large truck.

Atmospheric studies by NASA’s Apollo missions discovered extremely low quantities of argon, helium, oxygen, methane, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Scientists also believe the atmosphere may contain small traces of sodium, potassium, radon-222 and polonium-201.

With no atmosphere to protect it, the lunar surface is vulnerable to meteorites, space debris, lunar flares, dangerous cosmic rays and experiences extremes in temperature.


The Moon orbits the planet Earth, our home, on an elliptical path, taking 27 days to complete one circuit.

The Moon’s distance, due to its elliptical path, varies, so while the average distance is about 385, 000 km, its closest point is 364 397 km and most distant is 406 731 km.


The moon takes 27 days to rotate once around its axis.

This being the case, a lunar day consists of 13 Earth days of sunlight and 13 Earth days of darkness.

Tidal Locking

The Moon would have once rotated much faster, but the Earth’s gravity has caused it to become gravitationally locked to the Earth.

As a result, the time it takes for the Moon to rotate is equal to the amount of time it takes to complete its orbit. Only one side of the Moon, the near side, is therefore ever visible from Earth.

Uncanny… yes?


Without a significant atmosphere, there is nothing to trap the sun’s heat. So the Moon experiences dramatic changes in temperature:

A lunar night, of 13 Earth days, is on average -152˚C, 38˚C colder than the freezing temperature for alcohol

A lunar day, of 13 Earth days, is on average 107˚C; hot enough to boil water.


The surface of the Moon is covered in a layer of powdery material referred to as regolith, or lunar soil, beneath of which is bedrock. The regolith has formed from billions of years of meteorite impacts and is expected to extend 4-5 meters deep.

Extremely fine Moon dust (only a few microns wide), covering the top most layer of the regolith, has an annoying tendency to get into everything. A deadly equivalent of beach sand, it is highly abrasive, with a history of wearing down Apollo mission space suits and electronics and irritating the eyes and lungs of Apollo astronauts.


The rocks on the Moon contain oxygen and lots of it. Scientists on Earth have shown through experiments that this oxygen can be extracted to provide astronauts and future lunar colonies (or Moon Hotels) with breathable air and water.

There are trace amounts of various valuable minerals, but the most valuable of them all is helium-3, of which the Moon is thought to have huge quantities. A by-product of the Sun’s fusion reactions, helium-3 could be used for cryogenic refrigerators, lung imaging, neutron detection, and as an ideal fuel for fusion reactors,


The Moon’s diameter is one fourth of the diameter of the Earth. It has a surface area of 37.9 million square kilometres, 7.4% of the surface of the Earth, which has as surface area of 510 million square kilometres.

In other words, were you to remove a layer of lunar skin and lay it across the Earth’s surface, your epidermal Moon quilt wouldn’t cover Asia.

The Moon & the Sun

Due to what at this stage can only be put down to an incredibly bizarre coincidence, the sun is both 400 times larger than the Moon and 400 times further away. From our perspective here on Earth, this causes them to appear as almost exactly the same size.


The Moon reflects back 12% of all the solar radiation that hits it.

Formation & Age

Some scientists are of the opinion that the Moon formed when a Mars-sized proto-planet smashed into the Earth, the debris going into orbit then coalescing into the Moon we know today.

Others believe it formed at the same time as our solar system.

Got some interesting scientific Moon facts you’d like to share? Visit the Moon Science Forum [LINK] and let it rip people!

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