What are the spots on the moon?
The spots on the moon are called craters. Craters are the marks left by asteroids, meteors, and comets hitting the moon at high speeds. The moon has millions of craters. From Earth, these craters look like flat, dark spots. But if you were on the moon, you would see that most craters are holes in the ground that are shaped like bowls.
Why does the moon seem to change shapes?
Believe it or not, the moon is not really changing shapes. What changes is where the moon is in its orbit around Earth. The moon circles, or orbits, Earth. It takes about 29 days for the moon to go around Earth one time.
As the moon orbits Earth, the sun lights up different parts of the moon. The Phases of the Moon tool will help show you how Earth's shadow on the moon changes as the moon circles us.
Usually when the moon is between the sun and the Earth, the moon cannot be seen in the sky at night and is called a new moon. This is the beginning of the moon's orbit around Earth.
The moon starts growing bigger, or waxing, each night. The moon looks like a crescent (like the letter C or a smile), then like it has been cut in half, and then keeps waxing until you can see the full moon, which looks like a ball in the sky.
Next the moon starts waning, or getting smaller, each night. It again passes through the half-moon phase (but it's the other half this time!), and then the smiling crescent moon phase, before waning completely back to the new moon phase. Then the entire cycle starts over again as the moon makes another trip around Earth.
Sometimes the moon actually covers up the sun in what is called an eclipse. That's when the moon blocks the sun's light for a few minutes in the middle of the day and it looks like nighttime. The sun looks like a ring in the sky. This does not happen very often.
The Lunar Cycle Challenge game at Science NetLinks will help you figure out the order of the moon's phases. Can you pass the highest level?
Can people travel to the moon?
Yes, and people have traveled to the moon. People who are trained to travel in space are called astronauts. Twenty-four United States astronauts have traveled to the moon in spaceships, and some have even walked on the moon. The very first astronaut to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong. He is famous for saying, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The surface of the moon is covered in bowl-shaped holes called craters.
The moon appears to change shapes each month. This picture was taken during the crescent phase of the moon.
The moon covers the sun during a full solar eclipse.
Astronauts are people who travel to outer space. Some astronauts have even walked on the moon.