CHAPTER 1: The Man in the Moon
HOW DID WE GET TO KNOW THE MOON?
Long ago, people in every part of the world looked up at the sky, the same way we do now. The two most important things they saw were the Sun and the Moon.
The Sun gave a lot of light, but the Moon gave only a little. So many people thought the Sun was a man god, and the Moon a woman god – a goddess.
And people saw a face on the Moon. They called it “the Man in the Moon.” Parents still tell their children about him today.
Then people studied astronomy, and they thought about how the Moon changed. In the end, the astronomers understood. The Moon was a big ball!
They understood that the Moon and the Earth go around the Sun. The Sun shines light on half of the Earth all the time – this gives us day and night. The Sun shines on half of the Moon all the time, too. But from Earth, we can’t always see all of the light on the Moon. When the half of the Moon with light is away from us, the sky is dark. This is called a new moon. When we can see all of the light on the Moon, it’s a full moon. Between the new moon and the full moon, there are half-moons and crescent moons.
CHAPTER 2: A Helping Hand
HOW DOES THE MOON HELP THE EARTH?
In 1969, three American astronauts flew in a rocket to the Moon. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon. When he was there, he talked to people on Earth on the radio. But they heard him 1.25 seconds later. That’s because it’s more than 350,000 kilometers from the Moon to the Earth.
The Moon pulls the Earth. Because of this, the Earth is turning more and more slowly. Our day is getting 0.000015 seconds longer every year. But, of course, we don’t feel the difference.
The Moon goes around the Earth, but really, the Earth and the Moon go around each other. At the same time, the Earth and the Moon, together, go around the Sun.
The Earth has a tilt of 23.5 degrees. Because of the pull of the Moon, this tilt doesn’t change. And that’s a good thing, because it’s the Earth’s tilt that gives us our seasons. Thanks to the Moon, we enjoy spring, summer, fall, and winter. And the Earth doesn’t get too hot or too cold for life.
The Moon’s pull gives us tides, too. The Moon pulls the sea, and the water goes up and down. The Sun also pulls the sea and gives us tides, but the Moon’s tides are much bigger because it is closer to the Earth.
Tides can help us. We can use them to make electricity for our factories and homes. And that electricity is clean to make. It isn’t bad for plants and animals.
The Moon also helps sailors on boats at sea. At night, they can see where the Moon is – if there are no clouds. Then they know where to go.
The Moon helps animals, too. Many animals go out at night. A little moonlight helps them to see.
Of course, for some small animals, that’s not always a good thing. Big animals can see them in the moonlight and eat them!
The Moon can also tell animals where to go. Baby olive ridley turtles start their life in a hole in the sand on a beach. They use the Moon to find the sea.
CHAPTER 3: Lunatics
CAN THE MOON MAKE PEOPLE CRAZY?
The word lunar is the adjective we use for the Moon.
It comes from Latin, the language of the Ancient Romans. They called the Moon “Luna.” And lunatic is an old English word for a crazy person. A long time ago, people thought the Moon changed people. Lunatics went crazy when the Moon was full.
The Ancient Greek thinker and teacher Aristotle said this was because there was too much light from the full moon. Some people couldn’t sleep. That made them crazy.
Was he right? We now have streetlights to see at night. People don’t go crazy because of streetlights. But we know that people in countries with no night in the summer or no sunlight in the winter can have problems. We need both day and night.
Today, it’s often bad to use the word “lunatic.” England stopped using the word in its laws in 1930. But people still use it when they talk. For example, if someone is a crazy driver, we say, “He drives like a lunatic!”
CHAPTER 4: Moon Stories
WHY IS THE MOON SO INTERESTING
There are old stories about the Moon in every country.
The Maoris were the first people in New Zealand. They lived there before Europeans came. One old Maori story is about Rona. Rona was the daughter of the sea god, Tangaroa. She made the sea go up and down at high and low tide.
One night, Rona had water in a bucket to take to her children at home. She could see where to go in the moonlight. But then a cloud in the sky covered the Moon.
Rona couldn’t see. She said some bad things about the Moon. But the Moon heard her and was very angry. It pulled Rona up into the sky!
Today, many Maoris see a woman and a bucket in the Moon. They say that rain is water from Rona’s bucket.
In another Maori story, a man – also called Rona – went to the Moon to find a wife. Every four weeks, the man eats his wife and then she eats him. That’s why the dark and light parts of the Moon get bigger and smaller each month.
There are many stories about the Moon in science fiction books and movies. Science fiction is about what things are going to be like in a hundred, a thousand, or a million years. Or about worlds that are different from ours.
In 1901, H.G. Wells wrote a book called The First Men in the Moon. In the book, two men fly a rocket to the Moon. They find different kinds of aliens there. Some aliens want to stop them leaving. In the end, one man goes home, but the other stays. Today, we know there’s no life on the Moon. But in 1901, people didn’t know that. Anything was possible.
In 1867, the USA wanted to buy Alaska from Russia. So they sent a scientist called George Davidson to study it. He wrote down what he saw, and the USA paid the Russians $7.2 million for Alaska.
Davidson, an astronomer, wanted to see an eclipse. So in 1869, he went back to Alaska, to a place called Chilkat Valley. Davidson told the people there, “The Sun’s going to go dark tomorrow!” The Chilkats laughed. That was impossible, they thought. But the next day, the Moon went in front of the Sun. Everything was dark! Some Chilkats thought Davidson did it!
The Moon can change how we feel, but can it change us into animals?
In many countries, there are stories about people who change into birds, cats, or fish. Or werewolves! In the stories, people change into werewolves when the Moon is full. Some people change because a werewolf bites them. They get big teeth and hair on all their body. Then they eat animals – or sometimes people!
Some stories say you can only kill werewolves with silver, possibly because the color of the Moon is silver. The stories aren’t true, but they make great movies!
In an Ancient Greek story, a man called Lycaon doesn’t think Zeus is really a god. To find out, Lycaon kills Zeus’s son and cooks him for Zeus! But Zeus knows the food isn’t animal meat. He’s angry and changes Lycaon into a wolf. This is one of the oldest werewolf stories.
One of the newest is in the Harry Potter books. Harry’s teacher, Remus Lupin, is a werewolf. Werewolves in stories are usually bad, but Lupin is a good man. So he isn’t happy about being a werewolf.