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Video: How the Man in the Moon Was Born

If you saw Martin Scorcese’s film Hugo you will no doubt remember the homage to the iconic 1902 Georges Méliès film A Trip to the Moon. The film depicts a lunar voyage by six astronomers who travel in a bullet-shaped space capsule that hits the Man in the Moon square in the eye. 

A Trip to the Moon, of course, is part of a long and colorful tradition of offering cultural explanations for the Moon’s features. In Dante’s Inferno, for instance, the Man in the Moon is Cain, who is forced to circle the Earth. 

For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
The moon was round.

We know today, of course, that the Moon was formed by a cosmic collision 4.5 billion years ago. Over time the Moon entered various phases in which the lunar surface was transformed from an ocean of magma to a cool, relatively smooth surface. Then the Moon was bombarded by asteroids, creating the features we see today. 

The animated NASA video below depicts the moon’s violent history. What this video shows us is how common cosmic collisions are, if we consider the time scale of billions of years. As we prepare disaster scenarios for the event of a large object colliding with Earth, this should provide a good perspective on what tends to happen in the grand scheme of things

Watch the video here:

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


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