History of Moon Study

    Some ancient peoples believed that the moon was a rotating bowl of fire. Others thought it was a mirror that reflected Earth's lands and seas. But philosophers in ancient Greece understood that the moon is a sphere in orbit around Earth. They also knew that moonlight is reflected sunlight.

    Some Greek philosophers believed that the moon was a world much like Earth. In about A.D. 100, Plutarch even suggested that people lived on the moon. The Greeks also apparently believed that the dark areas of the moon were seas, while the bright regions were land.

    In about A.D. 150, Ptolemy, a Greek astronomer who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, said that the moon was Earth's nearest neighbor in space. He thought that both the moon and the sun orbited Earth. Ptolemy's views survived for more than 1,300 years. But by the early 1500's, the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus had developed the correct view -- Earth and the other planets revolve about the sun, and the moon orbits Earth.

    From then on, a history of Moon studies began.

    Early Moon Observations with Telescopes

    The Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo wrote the first scientific description of the moon based on observations with a telescope. In 1609, Galileo described a rough, mountainous surface. This description was... Read More

    Determining the Origin of Moon Craters

    Until the late 1800's, most astronomers thought that volcanism formed the craters of the moon. However, in the 1870's, the English astronomer Richard A. Proctor proposed correctly that the craters result from the... Read More

    Describing Lunar Evolution

    Gilbert suggested that scientists could determine the relative age of surface features by studying the ejecta of the Imbrium impact. That suggestion was the key to unraveling the history of the moon. Gilbert recognized... Read More

    Recent Moon Exploration

    No more spacecraft went to the moon until January 1994, when the United States sent the orbiter Clementine. From February to May of that year, Clementine's four cameras took more than 2 million pictures... Read More

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