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Our Moon

Earth's companion is so large and fascinating that geologists count the Moon as one of the solar system's "terrestrial planets." In fact, it was probably born from Earth, after a Mars-sized body collided with the proto-Earth, in a collision so violent that the Moon that coalesced from the leftover fragments was entirely (or almost entirely) molten. We can tell this story of Earth and the Moon's creation thanks to our analysis of the rocks returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts, Luna landers, and chance discoveries of lunar meteorites. New laboratory techniques yield new discoveries every year even though no samples have been collected from the surface of the Moon since 1972.

In the years since the end of the space race between the United States and Russia, many other nations have sent robotic spacecraft to orbit the Moon as a first step in their planetary exploration: Japan, the European Space Agency, India, and China. Likewise, many people see a staging station on the Moon as a necessary first stepping stone toward sending humans on missions to asteroids or Mars. Thanks to the combined data from lunar orbiters from all nations we know that there is water stored in lunar soil and that there are permanently sunlit peaks at the lunar poles, providing for two basic needs of human settlements: water and power. We can go back to the Moon; but who will make the effort?

Recent Blog Articles About the Moon

LPSC 2011: Day 4: Ted Stryk on icy moons and The Moon

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2011/03/17 11:22 CDT

Here are Ted Stryk's notes from the sessions he attended in the afternoon of Thursday, March 10, at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

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LPSC 2011: Day 3: Moon, Mars, and Venus

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2011/03/10 11:11 CST

Wednesday morning included some interesting conversations. Notably, I spoke with Pamela Gay, who is responsible for the MoonZoo citizen science program and who is presently working on developing a site through which the public will be able to help search for potential Kuiper belt objects for the New Horizons mission to encounter after the Pluto flyby.

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Lovely giant full Moon photo

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/01 03:08 CDT

Here's a photo worthy of hanging on the wall: a gorgeous, 4000-pixel-square portrait of the full Moon captured by Rolf Hempel from Germany on the night of the "Supermoon."

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Lovely crater turns up in MoonZoo; 2 million images classified, lots more Moon left

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/18 10:48 CDT

Here's a very pretty picture to start off the week: a really gorgeous fresh crater on the lunar farside. There's nothing particularly unusual about this crater; it's just recent and fresh so there's a mesmerizing amount of detail in the feathery patterns of the ejecta that fans outward from it.

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Landsat 8 Looks at the Supermoon

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/07/29 04:00 CDT

Why did Landsat 8, an Earth-observing spacecraft, turn its unblinking eyes toward the July 12 supermoon?

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LADEE spotted by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/01/29 03:11 CST

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has managed to snap a photo of the other current lunar orbiter, LADEE, at the Moon.

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Juno's flying by Earth today, and images of the Moon are already on the ground!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/10/09 11:25 CDT | 1 comment

Juno flies past Earth for a gravity assist at 19:22 UTC today, and the first images from the encounter are already on the ground and processed by amateurs!

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Isostasy, gravity, and the Moon: an explainer of the first results of the GRAIL mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/12/11 01:04 CST | 15 comments

Last week the GRAIL mission published their first scientific results, and what they have found will send many geophysicists back to the drawing board to explain how the Moon formed and why it looks the way it does now. To explain how, I'm going to have to back way up, and explain the basic science behind gravity data.

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Intro Astronomy Class 3: Telescopes, the Moon

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/02/21 04:35 CST

Explore optical, radio, and space telescopes and the Moon in the video of class 3 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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Intro Astronomy Class 1: Tour of the Solar System

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/02/11 05:53 CST | 1 comment

Take a tour of the Solar System in the video of class 1 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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