How Far Away Is The Moon?

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel named The Science Asylum. In this channel, physicist Nick Lucid covers some popular science subjects. For example, the video below, titled “How Far Away Is The Moon?” explains the distance between the Earth and the moon, and how our brains aren’t good at dealing with the big numbers.

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The average distance between the Earth and the moon is 384,400 km (238,855 miles). But, astronomical distances are often difficult to imagine. Things like planets are huge, but the distances between them are even bigger. We evolved here on Earth, and for thousands of years, we just thought the Earth is also the universe, or at least the most important and the biggest part of it. Our brains, our minds, has been adapted the life on Earth and the basic survival needs. So we can deal with the moderately sized objects which have moderate velocity, we can understand the small numbers like 1, 2, 50, we can conceptualize the small distances like two kilometers or the distance from our “cave” to the nearest river. But when the numbers and distances get bigger, like the distance between the Earth and the moon, it becomes incredibly difficult to conceptualize. And the moon is actually the nearest planetary body to us!

You might feel like you’ve got a good grasp on how far away the Moon is, but you probably don’t. It looks a lot closer than it actually is. In fact, most things in outer space look closer than they actually are. You might even be overwhelmed by the true vastness and emptiness of space.

Earth and Moon as seen by OSIRIS-REx. October 2, 2017.
Earth and Moon as seen by OSIRIS-REx. October 2, 2017. The purpose of OSIRIS-REx spacecraft (acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is to study, map and return samples for detailed analysis from asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbon-rich hunk of rock that might contain organic materials or molecular precursors to life. It was launched on September 8, 2016, and expected return date is September 24, 2023. If successful, OSIRIS-REx will be the first NASA spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid.

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