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The Moon is the only natural satellite of Earth: orbit: 384,400 km from Earth
diameter: 3476 km mass: 7.35e22 kg Called Luna by the Romans, Selene and Artemis
by the Greeks, and many other names in other mythologies. The Moon, of course,
has been known since prehistoric times. It is the second brightest object in the
sky after the Sun. As the Moon orbits around the Earth once per month, the angle
between the Earth, the Moon and the Sun changes; we see this as the cycle of the
Moon's phases. The time between successive new moons is 29.5 days (709 hours),
slightly different from the Moon's orbital period (measured against the stars)
since the Earth moves a significant distance in its orbit around the Sun in that
time. Due to its size and composition, the Moon is sometimes classified as a
terrestrial "planet" along with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The
Moon was first visited by the Soviet spacecraft Luna 2 in 1959. It is the only
extraterrestrial body to have been visited by humans. The first landing was on
July 20, 1969 (do you remember where you were?); the last was in December 1972.
The Moon is also the only body from which samples have been returned to Earth.
In the summer of 1994, the Moon was very extensively mapped by the little
spacecraft Clementine and again in 1999 by Lunar Prospector. The gravitational
forces between the Earth and the Moon cause some interesting effects. The most
obvious is the tides. The Moon's gravitational attraction is stronger on t...