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    Afpectus Lunae: Does the Moon Rotate on Its Axis?

    Like Earth, the Moon rotates on its axis. So why do we see only one view of its face? Grab two oranges, and let this 8th-grader from Pennsylvania show you the answer.

    Afpectus Lunae: Does the Moon Rotate on Its Axis?

    Part of the Young Naturalist Awards Curriculum Collection.

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    by Olivia, Grade 8, Pennsylvania - 2004 YNA Winner

    Last summer I often walked down the rough path to our pond and stepped out onto the dock. There I would lie down on my back and stare up at the night sky. The low rumble of the distant highway was easy to shut out when a shooting star flew by. The bright face of the moon often sparked my curiosity. Looking at it made me think about the telescope that sat in our closet, gathering dust. A few years ago my grandfather gave my family a nice backyard telescope for Christmas. Unfortunately, it sat in the house for four years because it was "too much work to figure out." This fall I set it up to do a school project with my science teacher. I wanted my project to be centered on the moon. Obvious possible topics were the moon's phases, the rising and setting of the moon, and lunar and solar eclipse phenomena. But after more pondering, I realized that I did not know if the moon, like Earth, rotates on its axis. I thought that I might be able to discover this simply by viewing the moon over several months and recording its appearance. My prediction was that if the moon rotates, the appearance of its surface would change, and if it does not rotate, the surface of the moon would always look the same. I hypothesized that the moon rotates because the same forces that affect Earth should affect the moon.

    An astrolabe is a homemade tool used to record the moon's elevation in the sky. (Click to enlarge)

    I planned to observe and record the appearance of the moon's surface as often as weather conditions and time permitted during October, November, and December 2003. The kit I created for viewing the moon included a compass, a homemade astrolabe, two different sizes of telescope lenses (9mm and 25mm), several pencils, and my field journal, which consisted of data sheets. At the top of each of these sheets I left a space to sketch the moon. From these sketches I hoped to confirm my hypothesis.

    Most "viewing nights" began with my checking a moon phase calendar to see where in the sky the moon would be and in what phase it would be. Then I took our telescope out onto our lane. We live in the country about six miles from a small town, so there is no significant light to obscure my view. The only obstructions are all the trees, so the cleared lane was an ideal viewing spot.

    After leveling the telescope, I got out my tools. Using the lower-magnification lens (9mm), I located the moon and focused the telescope. Then, in order to draw the details of the moon accurately, I replaced that lens with the higher-magnification lens (25mm) and refocused the telescope.

    Sample Data Sheet (Click to enlarge)

    On my data sheets, I recorded the date, time, weather, location of viewing, compass direction, and the elevation of the moon above the horizon. At first I used the altitude scale on my telescope to record the elevation of the moon. Later, my teacher showed me a science activity book that led me through the steps of making an astrolabe. While the astrolabe functioned no better than the telescope, it was more fun to create my own simple tool.

    The next spot on my data sheet was for recording my observations. I tried observing the moon with my unaided eye, but I needed more detail for my drawings. Using binoculars was cumbersome because I could not observe and draw at the same time. The telescope freed my hands for drawing and gave me the necessary magnification; therefore, I used it exclusively for the remainder of my observations. The last step for filling out a data sheet was to sketch the moon. I made clear, simple drawings with a focus on distinct surface features.

    During this process I became familiar with the main features of the moon and their appearance. Whenever I saw a picture of the moon in a book or some other place, I was able to recognize some of the features and noticed that all the sources depicted the same view of the moon.

    Sketches from Olivia's field journal.

    The simplest feature for me to locate is called the Sea of Crises. The features on the moon were named hundreds of years ago when they were thought to be seas. In my observations, this particular "sea" was always in the top left-hand portion of the moon. Being able to recognize certain features gave me a great sense of satisfaction. Often I ran excitedly to my mom, dad, or best friend, pointed at the sky and said, "Ah! Look there. That's the Sea of Serenity! Isn't that cool!" They would look back at me blankly and shake their heads, but I think they understood. After viewing the moon for a few nights and noting its depiction in other sources, I began to think that my hypothesis was false. If the moon rotates on its axis, I should have seen different features of the moon on each viewing. So far, the nearside of the moon had not changed at all. ("Nearside" refers to the portion of the moon exposed to Earth. I will use this term henceforth.)

    Did the moon spin on its axis, or not? It sure didn't appear to, but it seemed odd that the moon would hang still in space. I continued to think that since the Earth spins on its axis and the moon is affected by the same forces as the Earth, the moon should spin as well. Like any good naturalist, I went to the "literature." The first place I looked was in a children's book entitled  The Moon Seems to Change. This gave me a quick and easy overview of the moon. I learned that the moon's "day" is almost one month long. If the moon could have a "day," it must rotate on its axis! I was thrilled to discover that the moon did rotate. Now that that question was answered, I realized that I would have to continue to investigate with a new question in mind: Why does the moon rotate on its axis, and yet observers on Earth only see one view? With more reading I learned that it takes about the same amount of time for the moon to rotate on its axis (27.3 days) as it does for the moon to make one revolution around Earth (29.5 days). I wondered if this was just a coincidence, or if this piece of information was going to prove to be valuable. One thing that struck me about this information was that the moon is, in this respect, very different from Earth. Earth takes dramatically different amounts of time to rotate on its axis (24 hours) and to revolve around the sun (364.25 days).

    Source : www.amnh.org

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    How many days does the Moon take to compete one rotation around its own axis?

    Answer (1 of 29): Yes it does BUT it takes exactly the same time to spin once as it does to orbit the Earth once. Because these two movements match exactly, the Moon always has the same side facing towards the Earth. We say that the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth. The Moon completes one rot...

    How many days does the Moon take to compete one rotation around its own axis?

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    Sort John Clerk

    , 53 Years in Science Education. (1969-present)

    Answered 2 years ago · Author has 5.5K answers and 899.3K answer views

    Originally Answered: Does the Moon spin on its axis? If so, then how long does it take for it to complete one revolution?

    Yes it does BUT it takes exactly the same time to spin once as it does to orbit the Earth once. Because these two movements match exactly, the Moon always has the same side facing towards the Earth. We say that the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth.

    The Moon completes one rotation in 27.3 days and revolves around the Earth in 27.3 days.

    Because of this synchronicity, the Moon does not seem to be spinning and to observers on Earth it appears to be keeping perfectly still.

    Note: Because the Earth is also moving on a path around the Sun, it takes the Moon slightly longer to go from Full Moon to th

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    If the Moon rotates around its own axis, why can't we see its rotation from Earth?

    Meg Ann Webster Noah

    , Astronomy Adjunct at Nashua Community College

    Answered 3 years ago · Author has 867 answers and 492.6K answer views

    Originally Answered: How long does it take for the moon to rotate on it’s own axis?

    The Moons rotation rate is measured with respect to the ‘fixed stars.’ The period required for the Moon to complete one spin of its axis with respect to the stars is called its sidereal day and is approximately 27.3 Earth Solar days. The amount of time for the Sun to be the same position in the sky is called a synodic day, and for the Moon that is 29.5 days. Earth’s synodic day, that is the ‘Solar day’ is approximately 24 hours and 2.5 milliseconds. Earth’s sidereal day is approximately 23 hours 56 minutes and 4.09 seconds long.

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    Will Hawkins

    , studied Engineering Technology at Univerity of Washington

    Answered 2 years ago · Author has 135 answers and 49.7K answer views

    Originally Answered: How long does it take for the moon to rotate on its axis?

    Almost exactly 27 days, one lunar month. There is a slight variation as we can see a little bit into the ;dark side’ of the moon, but the variation in the length of the lunar month eventually works out.

    Paul Nance , studies astronomy

    Updated 3 years ago · Author has 7.9K answers and 3.7M answer views

    Originally Answered: How long does it take the Moon to complete one rotation?

    Q: How long does it take the Moon to complete one rotation?

    It takes the moon 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.9 seconds to complete a rotation. It takes the moon 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, and 11.5 seconds to go around the earth. The rotation during the revolution causes the moon to always have one face only visible to the earth, with slight variations (librations) showing a little bit extra here and there.

    The earth rotates counter clockwise as viewed from a north of the earth position. The moon revolves around the earth in a counter clockwise motion again as viewed from a position nort

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    If the Earth disappeared, would the Moon still rotate around its axis every 28 days?

    Marco Cammozzo

    , studied Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering at University of Padua

    Answered 2 years ago · Author has 80 answers and 24.7K answer views

    Originally Answered: How long does it take for the moon to rotate on its axis?

    Almost the exact same time It takes to rotate around the earth. That's why she's always showing us the same face and there's the so called “dark side of the Moon"

    By the way, It takes about 27 days to rotate 360 degrees around its axis

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    Jack Walker

    , I haz other answers, too. Check them out! ;)

    Answered 4 years ago · Author has 152 answers and 441.1K answer views

    Originally Answered: How long does it take the moon to rotate on it's axis? (The Earth does it in 24 hours.)

    About 28 days.

    The Moon is quite close to Earth. In fact, it’s so close that the Earth’s gravity causes only one side to face the Earth. This is called being “tidally locked”.

    The moon orbits once every 28 days, or thereabouts. Because the Moon has to turn at the same rate it orbits due to its tidal lock, it completes one revolution every orbital period, which is about 28 days.

    Source : www.quora.com

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