Last update: July 7th, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Today’s Image of the Day from NASA features a spectacular view of the moon in its first quarter phase positioned at the edge of the Earth’s horizon.
The photograph was captured on April 11, 2019 by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station as it passed 255 miles above the Pacific Ocean just south of Hawaii. The Moon is an astronomical body that orbits Earth as its only natural satellite. It is the fifth-largest satellite in the Solar System, and by far the largest among planetary satellites relative to the size of the planet that it orbits (its primary). The Moon is, after Jupiter’s satellite Io, the second-densest satellite in the Solar System among those whose densities are known.
The Moon is thought to have formed about 4.51 billion years ago, not long after Earth. The most widely accepted explanation is that the Moon formed from the debris left over after a giant impact between Earth and a hypothetical Mars-sized body called Theia. New research of Moon rocks, although not rejecting the Theia hypothesis, suggests that the Moon may be older than previously thought.
The Moon is in synchronous rotation with Earth, and thus always shows the same side to Earth, the near side. Because of libration, slightly more than half (about 59%) of the total lunar surface can be viewed from Earth. The near side is marked by dark volcanic maria that fill the spaces between the bright ancient crustal highlands and the prominent impact craters. After the Sun, the Moon is the second-brightest regularly visible celestial object in Earth’s sky.
Image Credit: NASA