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

  • 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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  • Q:

    Why do we see the phases of the moon?

    A:

    The lunar phases are caused by the changing angles of the sun, the moon and Earth, as the moon revolves around Earth. Different amounts of the illuminated part of the moon are visible from Earth. The lunar phases include the new moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter, crescent and gibbous.

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  • Q:

    Why are we able to see different phases of the moon?

    A:

    The moon orbits around the Earth on a 29 day cycle. Half of the moon is always lit by the sun's rays but different amounts of this illumination can be seen from Earth depending on the angle the moon makes with the sun relative to the Earth.

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  • Q:

    Why is the moon important to the earth?

    A:

    The gravitational pull of the moon ensures that the earth remains in a constant position on its axis, despite the way it is moving around the axis. Without the moon, the earth would not be able to continuously rotate and it would be uninhabitable.

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