For centuries, the moon has been shrouded in mystery.
We have gazed at its ethereal beauty, wondered about its origins, and used it as a guide for everything from our calendar to our plants’ growing cycles.
And yet, there is still so much we don’t know about our nearest celestial neighbor.
Scientists are only just beginning to unlock the secrets of the moon—and what they are discovering is that the moon may be more important to us than we ever could have imagined.
Here are the top six benefits of the moon to humans.
One of the most well-known effects of the moon is its role in tidal movements.
The gravitational pull of the moon creates bulges in both the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere.
These bulges cause high tide when they line up with the shore and low tide when they are on the opposite side of the planet.
The tides play an important role in balancing the Earth’s ecosystem by redistributing heat and nutrients around the globe.
They also help to moderate our climate by affecting storm patterns and controlling coastal erosion.
You may not realize it, but you probably rely on the tides in more ways than you realize.
If you live near a coastline, chances are good that you enjoy leisure activities like swimming, fishing, and boating that wouldn’t be possible without the tides.
And if you live inland, you may still benefit from the tides indirectly; for example, many power plants use tidal energy to generate electricity.
2. Earth’s rotation
Believe it or not, the moon also plays a role in keeping our planet spinning on its axis.
As it orbits around Earth, the moon’s gravity creates a friction force that slows down our planet’s rotation over time.
In fact, scientists estimate that without the moon, a day would be just six to twelve hours long!
Not only does this mean that we get to enjoy longer days thanks to the moon—but it also means that our planet is more stable than it would be without its gravitational influence.
This stability makes it possible for life to exist on Earth as we know it.
3. Moon phases
The moon’s changing phases have been a source of fascination for cultures around the world for centuries.
The most well-known phase, the full moon, occurs when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of Earth.
This alignment causes the entire surface of the moon to be illuminated by sunlight, creating a bright, round disc in the night sky.
The other phases of the moon occur as the alignment of the sun, Earth, and moon changes.
During a new moon, for example, the sun and moon are on the same side of Earth, so we see only the dark side of the moon.
And during a half-moon, we see half of the illuminated side of the moon as it waxes or wanes.
The moon phases are important for both practical and cultural reasons.
For example, farmers have long used the phases of the moon to guide their planting and harvesting cycles.
And many holidays and festivals—including Easter, Passover, and the Chinese Lunar New Year—are timed to coincide with specific moon phases.
Eclipses occur when the sun, Earth, and moon line up in a specific way that causes the shadow of one body to fall on another.
There are two types of eclipses: solar eclipses, during which the moon blocks out the sun’s light, and lunar eclipses, during which Earth’s shadow falls on the moon.
Eclipses are some of the most awe-inspiring astronomical events that we can witness, and they wouldn’t be possible without the moon.
In fact, some cultures have traditionally considered eclipses to be bad omens.
But there’s no need to worry; while they may be frightening to look at, eclipses are actually completely safe to watch—as long as you take the proper precautions to protect your eyesight.
5. The moon as a timekeeper
The moon has long been used as a timekeeping device.
For example, the lunar month—the time it takes for the moon to complete one orbit around Earth—is 29.5 days long, which is very close to the length of a traditional month.
This makes the moon an ideal tool for calendar-makers. In fact, many cultures have used lunar cycles to keep track of time for thousands of years.
The moon can also be used to measure the passage of time in a more precise way.
For example, scientists use the moon’s phases to calculate the exact length of a day (24 hours) and a year (365.24 days).
And by timing how long it takes for seismic waves to travel from earthquakes to monitoring stations on Earth, researchers can use the moon as a giant clock to measure the age of our planet down to the nearest millisecond.
6. The moon as a destination
For centuries, the moon was nothing more than a distant, unattainable dream.
But in 1969, that all changed when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon.
Since then, dozens of other people have traveled to the moon—either as part of crewed missions or as solo explorers—and we now know more about our natural satellite than ever before.
The moon is an important destination for both scientific and cultural reasons.
For example, by studying the moon’s surface, scientists can learn more about the early history of our solar system.
And by visiting the moon, we can further our understanding of its unique place in our universe.
The moon is also a popular destination for artists and filmmakers.
Recently, the 2009 film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones tells the story of an astronaut who is stranded on the moon and must find a way back to Earth.
The moon is a fascinating and complex body that has captivated humans for centuries.
It plays an important role in our lives, from providing light in the night sky to helping us keep track of time.
And it continues to be an important destination for scientists and explorers who want to learn more about our place in the universe.
Thanks for reading!