The Moon Guide
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U. S. N. O.
The phase of the Moon right now

spacer From eclipses to romance

More reasons why the Moon has been vital to life on Earth.
Total solar eclipse
Total eclipse of the Sun,
photographed from Cornwall, 1999

Reason 4: Eclipses

We may blame the full Moon for brightening up the night sky when we’re trying to do some observing, but without the Moon we wouldn’t be treated to the spectacular gem of a solar eclipse, which can only occur then the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. Eclipse prediction has been at the heart of astronomy for thousands of years, and the need to foretell what many saw as terrifying events probably stimulated interest in astronomy and science from early times.

Reason 5: Universal laws
The Moon has taught us a great deal about the Solar System and Universe we live in. We have learnt about the phases of the Moon and the relative sizes and motions of celestial bodies around the Sun. Because of the Moon’s pristine surface we have a museum of the geological history of the inner Solar System right at the end of a telescope (and even our naked eye!). 

The Moon’s craters date right back to the Moon’s youth, and by counting craters of a particular age and seeing how many there are in total, we can infer that the Earth too suffered a similar history. Because the Moon offers completely different conditions to the Earth, we can better understand how physical processes – from impact cratering to volcanism – operate in different environments. 

NASA moonbase artwork
A NASA proposal for a Moonbase

Reason 6: Space Exploration
The Moon is just a stone’s throw away, astronomically speaking, and was the ultimate prize for the Space Race, humanity’s great achievement of putting a human being on a completely different world. NASA has pledged that humans are returned to the Moon in the 2020s, and there are plans to build a permanent base there. The Moon could also act as a crucial stepping stone for our future manned exploration of Mars and beyond. Without the Moon, we may not have had the desire to explore our Solar System, or even begin to think what might be out there.

Reason 7: Inspiration
The Moon has acted as a source of inspiration to poets, artists, songwriters and authors - especially science fiction writers - for as long as we know. Without the Moon we would not have had any werewolf stories, Arthur C Clarke would not have written his epic novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and Beethoven would not have had inspiration for his Moonlight Sonata. And perhaps we wouldn’t even be here to appreciate all these things! For more effects of the Moon on art and culture, see the chapter on Art and Culture.

And finally, we mustn’t forget the romantic inspiration that the Moon has had on countless generations of lovers!

Text by Dr Emily Baldwin spacer
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Crescent Moon

Reasons why the Moon is vital

More reasons: eclipses to romance

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