2017-39 Science and faith

A Marvelous and Mysterious World – the Moon

Mar 23, 2017 LOA Editorial Office

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

Do we realize how wonderful and mysterious the world around us is? For centuries man has looked into the heavens and wondered at the power of God, who conceived of the world in such a wondrous and harmonious way. Through His works God reveals His glory, maintaining everything in a state of perfect animation. He, who conceived everything and holds it all in the palm of His hand is truly great. Gazing at the moon will provoke amazement and enchantment in us, from which gratitude and honor for the Creator will flow naturally. Our guide to the moon is Austin Sailsbury, the author of the album The Universe – the Greatness, Splendor, and Beauty of God’s Creation.

Our permanent companion

In 1969, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the dusty surface of the moon and said: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Since then, eleven other American astronauts have visited our cosmic companion, and have brought back nearly 400 kilograms of stone from this rocky and inhospitable place. This material was used to deepen our knowledge of the beginnings of the moon. The moon is covered with craters, mountains, basins, seas, and inactive volcanoes. It has no atmosphere and contains only trace amounts of ice in permanently shaded edges of the craters. It is believed that under the pock-marked surface and multilayered crust it has an iron core.

In our solar system there are more than 130 natural satellites of the planets. The moon is the only natural satellite of the earth. Through the ages it has reminded us every night that there are many elements of creation that are beyond our reach; we can see many things, but we can’t touch them; constantly changing, they remain true to their courses.

Two faces of the Moon

Even though the moon circles the earth in about 29½ days, only one of its sides is visible in the night sky. The reason why the moon can’t turn its “back” to the earth is gravity. Bearing in mind the relatively short distance between the earth and the moon, the powerful mutual gravitational effect creates the phenomenon of synchronized rotation.

The synchronized rotation relies on the fact that the moon rotates on its own axis in the same amount of time that it takes for it to circle the earth. This is how the same side is always turned towards us. So only the “light” side of the moon remains visible from earth, and we are never in a position to see the “dark” side.

Not until the 20th century, in the era of space exploration, has the possibility for exploring the dark side of the moon been possible. Even though it has been an object of great interest and various speculations for millennia, it is only now that we know how the concealed side of the moon looks. It’s covered with numerous craters, but has none of the “seas” that are typical of the side that is visible from earth. The permanent satellite has two distinct faces: one is a reliable measure of time and the seasons of the year, and the other is a world concealed from our view.

Moonlight

From our earthly perspective the moon seems as though it is about the same size as the sun, and constitutes a similar source of light in the sky. However, even though we all know the moon’s pale luminescence, the moon does not produce its own light; it only reflects sunlight onto the earth. Passing through the cycle of phases from new to full, the moon does not change physically; only the amount of reflected light (and therefore the moon’s appearance) changes, depending on the relative positions of the sun, the moon, and the earth.

Because the moon has no atmosphere to diffuse light, the fragment of the universe around it is completely black. But for us people on earth, the “light of the moon” reminds us that even though at night we don’t see the sun, its light still shines out into the solar system – so powerfully that even when the sun is completely removed from the field of vision, we can detect other objects in its light.

The moon and the tides

It is generally understood that the moon causes the tides of the earth’s oceans. The cause of this effect of raising and lowering the levels of the great waters of our planet by our satellite is obviously the force of gravity. Even though the pull of the sun is almost 200 times stronger than that of the moon, the tidal movement caused by the moon is about twice as great as that caused by the sun. Even though the gravitation of the moon acts in all places on earth, it is most noticeable in the oceanic tides. The moon always draws the oceans towards itself, causing stronger tides in the hemisphere facing towards it, and weaker tides on the opposite side of the earth.