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Moon, Earth’s sole natural satellite and nearest large celestial body.
Ancient lore and legend tell of the power of the Moon to instill spells with magic, to transform humans into beasts, and to send people’s behaviour swaying perilously between sanity and lunacy (from the Latin , “Moon”).
Early studies of the Moon’s motion and position allowed the prediction of tides and led to the development of calendars.
The Moon was the first new world on which humans set foot; the information brought back from those expeditions, together with that collected by automated spacecraft and remote-sensing observations, has led to a knowledge of the Moon that surpasses that of any other cosmic body except Earth itself.
Scientists now believe that more than four billion years ago the Moon was subject to violent heating—probably from its formation—which resulted in its differentiation, or chemical separation, into a less dense crust and a more dense underlying mantle.
This was followed hundreds of millions of years later by a second episode of heating—this time from internal radioactivity—which resulted in volcanic outpourings of lava.
The Moon’s mean density is 3.34 grams per cubic cm, close to that of Earth’s mantle.