Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why does the moon shine?”you ask? Good question. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why does my brother sniff his socks and underwear to see if he can wear them again?”)
Why does the moon shine? It sounds slightly poetic and being a published poet yours truly can appreciate these things. Let’s get to your answer though, shall we?
As you may have surmised without the sun, the planet Earth would not only be dart and dismal but it would in truth be an entirely different place or at least certainly seem like one. Truth is though, according to sources such as Live Science, the moon would also be a rather dull, dark heavenly body without the sun as well.
The sun and its rays play a key part in the answer to the shine of the moon. Essentially, the moon shines because as Live Science’s Elizabeth Palermo explains “its surface reflects light from the sun. And despite the fact that it sometimes seems to shine very brightly, the moon reflects only between 3 and 12 percent of the sunlight that hits it.”
Of course, between the brightness of the sun during the day, one might think the moon would sine even brighter than it does at night. This would be an issue of perception of course. Palermo had a simple explanation about this as well.
She said: “The perceived brightness of the moon from Earth depends on where the moon is in its orbit around the planet. The moon travels once around Earth every 29.5 days, and during its journey, it’s lit from varying angles by the sun.”
The movement explains the moon’s different phases–full moon, quarter moon and so forth. Only half of the moon actually shines because as Palermo points out: “At any given point in the moon’s trajectory around the Earth, only half of its surface is facing the sun.”
Before and after a new moon the moon shines differently. According to Live Science during this time “the faint brightness of the rest of the moon — the part not brightly lit as a sliver — is a result of what scientists call ‘earthshine’, in which the moon’s relatively dark disk is slightly illuminated by sunlight that reflects off of Earth, then off the moon and (then) back to our eyes.”
Regardless of how much or little of the moon appears to be shining, the reason why we see it shine is because it reflects varying amounts of the sun’s rays. Otherwise, even a full moon would be comparatively dark and dull.
(By the way, we write about the moon here a lot on American Live Wire. Do a search if you’re interested in learning more.)
Why does the moon shine? Now you know.
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