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Did you ever look at the Moon and think you could
see a face? Sometimes dark spots on the Moon look
like eyes, a nose, and a mouth. People used to talk
about “the man in the Moon.” They would joke about
the Moon being made of cheese with holes in it.

The Moon is the second brightest thing in our sky,

after the Sun. The Moon doesn’t make its own light.
Light rays from the Sun bounce off it and make it
shine. The Moon is closer to Earth than any other
body in our solar system.


In the 1600s, the famous Italian scientist Galileo was the
first person to look at the Moon through a telescope. He
saw dark spots that he thought were oceans. He called
them maria, the Latin word for “seas.” Galileo thought the
light areas were large landmasses called continents.

Today, we know a lot more about the Moon. We know that

nothing lives on the Moon, and there are no oceans. The
maria are dry, flat plains covered with rocks. The Moon is
the only place in space that human beings have visited.


The first astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969. They
traveled in a United States spacecraft named Apollo 11.
The astronauts set up experiments on the Moon and
brought some moon rocks back to Earth. Later, five more
Apollo missions explored different parts of the Moon. The
astronauts on these missions brought back more rocks
and soil.
Scientists learned many things about the Moon from the
Apollo space missions. They also learned from other
spacecraft that orbited (went around) the Moon. Some of
these spacecraft sent robot landers down to the surface of
the Moon.


The dry, gray Moon might seem like a boring place now.
But you should have seen it several billion years ago.

Many times over the past two or three billion years,

chunks of rock and ice have come whizzing toward the
Moon. The space rocks and ice are asteroids and comets.
They slam into the Moon’s surface. The biggest ones came
just after Earth and the other planets were formed. When
they hit the Moon, these large objects threw up tons of
rock and dust. There are billions of big and small pits on
the Moon made by the space rocks. These pits are called

If you went to the Moon, you’d see the dark-colored
maria. Scientists think the dark gray rock is lava (melted
rock). They believe that billions of years ago, red-hot rock
gushed up from volcanoes on the Moon. The lava flowed
over the Moon’s surface. It filled in low places, including
some of the big craters. Then the lava cooled to make the
Moon’s gray rocks.

The lava also left round hills on the Moon called domes
and carved grooves called rilles.

There are rough and mountainous places all over the
Moon. Scientists call these places highlands.

There are highlands on the far side of the Moon but almost
no maria. Only one side of the Moon faces Earth, so you
can never see the far side of the Moon. Scientists learned
what the far side looks like from pictures taken by orbiting


The astronauts who walked on the Moon had to wear big
space suits. The space suits provided air for the astronauts
to breathe, because there is no air on the Moon. The suits
also kept the astronauts cool during hot Moon days and
warm during cold Moon nights.

With no atmosphere to protect it, Moon temperatures can

be very high and very low. It can be 261° Fahrenheit
(127° Celsius) at noon during a Moon day—hotter than
boiling water! It can be as cold as -279° Fahrenheit (-173°
Celsius) on a Moon night. Days and nights on the Moon
each last about two weeks.

Days and nights are long because the Moon turns very
slowly. It takes the Moon about 27 days to make one turn.
Earth turns once every 24 hours.


There is no water on the Moon, but scientists think that
there may be ice. Two spacecraft in the 1990s saw signs
of the ice. If there is ice on the Moon, it could help future
explorers stay there longer.

The signs of ice were found in deep craters at the north

and south poles of the Moon. Because these craters are
always in shadow, it stays very cold there—about -364°
Fahrenheit (-220° Celsius).


The Moon always seems to change shape. Sometimes it
looks like a round ball in the sky. Sometimes it is a thin
sliver. But the Moon does not really change shape. What
happens to it?

The Moon reflects light from the Sun. How you see the
reflected sunlight depends on where the Moon is. The
Moon orbits (goes around) Earth. Sometimes it is between
the Sun and Earth, and you can’t see any reflected
sunlight. This is called the new moon.

Sometimes Earth is between the Moon and the Sun. You

can see all of the reflected sunlight. The Moon looks
round. This is called a full moon.

The rest of the time, you see only part of the reflected
sunlight from the Moon. The reflected sunlight looks like
slivers of Moon. It takes about 27 days to go from a new
moon to a full moon and back to a new moon again.


No one knows for sure how the Moon was formed. By
testing moon rocks, scientists have learned that the Moon
is about 4.6 billion years old. This is the same age as the
solar system.

Scientists think that at that time something as big as a

planet crashed into Earth. The collision blasted huge
pieces of Earth into space. Some of the pieces came
together to make the Moon.
Scientists continue to study moon rocks for clues. There is
still much to learn about the Moon.
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