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Facts about the Moon for Kids

The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth, and the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System. It is the largest natural satellite of a planet in the Solar System relative to the size of its primary, having a quarter the diameter of Earth but only ⁄81 its mass. The Moon is the second densest satellite after Io, a satellite of Jupiter.

  • It is in synchronous rotation with Earth, always showing the same face with its near side marked by dark volcanic maria that fill between the bright ancient crustal highlands and the prominent impact craters.
  • The Moon is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun, although its surface is actually very dark, with a reflectance similar to that of coal.
  • Its prominence in the sky and its regular cycle of phases have, since ancient times, made the Moon an important cultural influence on language, calendars, art and mythology.
  • The Moon’s current orbital distance, about thirty times the diameter of the Earth, causes it to appear almost the same size in the sky as the Sun, allowing it to cover the Sun nearly precisely in total solar eclipses.
  • The Soviet Union’s Luna program was the first to reach the Moon with unmanned spacecraft in 1959; the United States’ NASA Apollo program achieved the only manned missions to date, beginning with the first manned lunar orbiting mission by Apollo 8 in 1968, and six manned lunar landings between 1969 and 1972, with the first being Apollo 11.
  • The prevailing hypothesis today is that the Earth–Moon system formed as a result of a giant impact: a Mars-sized body hitting the newly formed proto-Earth, blasting material into orbit around it, which accreted to form the Moon.
  • The large amount of energy released in the giant impact event and the subsequent reaccretion of material in Earth orbit would have melted the outer shell of the Earth, forming a magmaocean.
  • The most visible topographic feature is the giant far side South Pole – Aitken basin, some 2,240 km in diameter, the largest crater on the Moon and the largest known crater in the Solar System.
  • The majority of these lavas erupted or flowed into the depressions associated with impact basins.
  • Its sources include outgassing and sputtering, the release of atoms from the bombardment of lunar soil by solar wind ions.