Earth and Moon to Scale

1 pixel = 600 kilometers

The average distance between Earth and Moon is approximately 30 times Earth's diameter.

If you could fly to the Moon at a constant speed of 1000 kilometers per hour, which is the speed of a fast passenger jet, it would take sixteen days to get there. Apollo astronauts reached the Moon in less than four days even though they coasted "uphill" almost the entire distance. They got a fast start.

The Sun happens to be 400 times the Moon's diameter, and 400 times as far away. That coincidence means the Sun and Moon appear to be the same size when viewed from Earth. A total solar eclipse, in which the Moon is between the Earth and Sun, blocks the bright light from the Sun's photosphere, allowing us to see the faint glow from the corona, the Sun's outer atmosphere.

When the Moon is at apogee, it is 11% farther from Earth than it is at perigee. This is far enough that it cannot entirely block the bright light, so eclipses which occur near apogee are not total.

Perigee  363,300 km
Mean384,400 km
Apogee405,500 km

Gravitational interaction (tides on the Earth caused by the Moon) transfers kinetic energy from Earth to the Moon, slowing Earth's rotation and raising the Moon's orbit, currently at a rate of 3.8 centimeters per year.

Earth and Moon Compared

The Moon has approximately 1/4 Earth's diameter, 1/50 Earth's volume, and 1/80 Earth's mass. Earth is very dense overall (it is the densest planet in the Solar System), but the Moon is light for its size. The difference is partly because Earth has a large core of iron and other heavy metallic elements, while the Moon has only a small core, if it has a core at all. The Moon's surface gravity is 1/6 of Earth's, and escape velocity from the surface is about 1/5 of Earth's.

The Moon's surface is covered with rock and grit that are mostly dark-gray minerals, so it reflects light poorly compared to Earth, which always has highly-reflective clouds. The Moon reflects visible light about 1/3 as well as Earth, and because of its much smaller size, has a visual brightness less than 1/40 that of Earth, when both are fully illuminated and seen from the same distance -- a difference of four stellar magnitudes.

Mean diameter12,742 km3,476 km
Volume1.08321 x 1012 km3    2.199 x 1010 km3
Mass5.9736 x 1024 kg7.349 x 1022 kg
Mean density5.5153.342
Surface gravity9.78 m/s21.62 m/s2
Escape velocity11.2 km/s2.38 km/s
Visual albedo0.3670.12
Visual magnitude    -3.86+0.21

At right: Earth and Moon to the scale of 1 pixel = 50 km.
The Moon's surface area is a bit greater than Africa's.

HomeTo my Space and Science home page  for more about the Moon and planets

Jeff Root
February 18, 2003