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Orbital Relationship Of The Moon

Jan 2, 2008
The Moon is the Earth's natural satellite. It orbits the Earth on a regular basis, much the same as the Earth orbits the Sun. The orbit of the Moon around the Earth creates several interesting conditions and in fact can greatly influence the Earth and everyone on it.

The Moon orbits the Earth with a synchronous rotation. This means that nearly the same face of the Moon is faced towards the Earth at all times. In fact, only 59% of the face of the Moon can ever be observed from Earth. As the moon rotates, it also completes its orbit.

The Moon completes one orbit of the Earth in 27.3 days, but because during this time, the Earth is also moving, a full lunar cycle is 29.5 days. These lunar cycles are responsible for the phases of the moon. The lunar cycle begins with the new moon. The new moon is when the moon first appears as a small sliver. Some cultures and even some calendars will use this new moon as the basis for the beginning of a new month.

Over the course of the next 14 or so days, the lighted face of the moon will continue to become larger and larger. During this process, the moon cycle is called waxing gibbous. After 1 week, it will resemble a half moon and after the approximately 14 days, it will resemble a full Moon. Over the course of the next 14 or so days, the lighted face of the moon will decrease. This is the waning gibbous cycle. At the end of 7 days, it will be half a moon and by the end of 14 days, the lighted area will disappear and the cycle will begin again.

This cycle brings up the first of the orbital effects of the moon on society and culture. The 29.5 day moon cycle corresponds to 1 month. The 12 cycles per year corresponds to the 12 months of the year. The approximately 7 days from each half of the moon corresponds to 1 week. Further more, this cycle of the Moon also corresponds to the menstrual cycle of many women.

The moon's synchronous rotation as it orbits the Earth also causes the tides. As the moon orbits the Earth, the gravitational pull of the Moon is causing water to bulge towards it, causes a tide. This similar force will exist on the far side of the Earth as well, hence there are two tide cycles every day.

The Moon's orbit causes eclipses to occur as well. There are two kinds of eclipses, the solar eclipse and the lunar eclipse. The lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the sun and the moon. The lunar eclipse is unique in that we are able to view the shadow of the Earth being cast on the moon. When the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth, we see a solar eclipse. The Moon is passing over the surface of the Sun.

There are so many effects of the Moon's orbit. It has a very unique relationship with us. It has affected our culture, our physical being and even the forces of nature that shape our world. The Moon shows us how interconnected we are to the universe around us.
About the Author
Written by Simone Poleggi. Find more information on la Luna and Eclissi Lunare
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