Q:

What is the purpose of the moon?

A:

Quick Answer

The gravitational pull of the moon controls the rise and fall of tides on Earth and slows the planet's rotation, while the phases of the moon serve as calendar markers for human beings. High tides occur on the portion of the Earth closest to the moon and the portion farthest away. Low tides occur between those two points.

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Full Answer

The moon's pull slows the Earth's rotation in what astronomers describe as tidal braking. This effect adds 2.3 milliseconds to the length of a full day each century. As it collects energy from the Earth, the moon moves further away from the planet at a distance of 3.8 centimeters per year.

The lunar calendar is based on the time that elapses between full moons. For centuries, many civilizations acknowledged that the moon's cycles influence everything from the female menstrual cycle to planting and harvesting times for crops.

Over the years, many have claimed that there is a correlation between full moons and erratic or aggressive human behavior. However, studies on the subject have found no connection between the two.

As human beings transitioned from rural, agriculture-based lifestyles to more urban lifestyles, they have, as a group, grown increasingly unaware of the cycles of the moon.

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Related Questions

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    Why does the moon wax and wane?

    A:

    The moon appears to wax and wane through different phases due to how much of its illuminated surface is visible from Earth. At any given time, half the moon is illuminated by the sun's light. Depending on where the moon is in relation to the Earth, the amount of illuminated surface changes. The ratio of illuminated surface to shadowed surface creates the phases.

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  • Q:

    What causes the phases of the moon?

    A:

    The phases of the moon are caused by the light from the sun and the position of the moon with regard to the Earth and sun. Depending on these positions, the moon appears to be in any one of eight major phases from Earth. These phases are full, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent, new, waxing crescent, first quarter and waxing gibbous. Each phase lasts approximately seven days.

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    Why does the moon go through phases?

    A:

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    What is the difference between a new moon vs. a full moon?

    A:

    The phases of the moon are determined by the angle at which sunlight approaches the moon relative to the position of the Earth. When the sun is behind the Earth, relative to the moon, full sunlight falls on the hemisphere of the moon that faces Earth. When the sun is behind the moon, relative to Earth, sunlight falls on the opposite lunar hemisphere.

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