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Behind the Forecast: Could there be weather on the moon?

Listen to Science Behind the Forecast with Meteorologist Tawana Andrew every Friday on 89.3 WFPL at 7:45 a.m.
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 11:36 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Does the moon have weather? Technically, no. At least not in the way we typically think of the weather.

The American Meteorological Society defines the word atmosphere is defined as a “gaseous envelope gravitationally bound to a celestial body.”

A few sections make up our planet’s atmosphere. The first section is the exosphere, which is the outermost region of Earth’s atmosphere. Here our atmosphere is extremely thin and fades into space’s vacuum; this is where many low earth-orbiting satellites can be found. The thermopause lies in between the exosphere and the thermosphere. Beneath the thermosphere is the mesosphere, followed by the stratosphere, then the troposphere.

We live in the troposphere which extends 6 to 7 miles above the surface. Its height can vary based on altitude and the season. Most of our atmosphere’s moisture is in the troposphere.

While the air in the troposphere is made up of mostly nitrogen and oxygen, according to NASA, the moon’s atmosphere is made up of some interesting gases including potassium, methane, helium, carbon dioxide, ammonia, argon, and sodium. The moon’s atmosphere is comprised of 1,000,000 molecules in a cubic centimeter compared to 10 quintillion molecules at sea level on Earth in that same volume. Compared to the Earth’s atmosphere, the moon’s atmosphere is still basically a vacuum.

While temperatures across the globe can vary significantly, those changes are nothing compared to the wild swings seen on the moon. When the sun hits the moon’s surface, temperatures can soar to 260°F and dip down to minus 280°F when there’s darkness. By the way, a day on one side of the moon lasts about 13 and a half days and the night is about the same length.

Since the moon basically has no tilt (only 1.54°) so it does not have seasons. The Earth has seasons because it tilts at an average of 23.5°. This drastic tilt causes parts of our planet to be heated differently by the sun, leading to our seasons.

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