Happy Lunar New Year! Facts About the Moon

By Faran Krentcil, Fact checked by Jessica Ochoa

3 min read

Moon

It’s the start of the Lunar New Year, and celebrations are held throughout Asia and across the wider world. Why is it called Lunar New Year? Because it’s based on a lunisolar calendar, which organizes time according to astrological phenomena, including full moons, eclipses, and seasonal changes. (It also corresponds to planting seasons, and the changing amount of light and precipitation that affect crop health and harvests.)

But how do lunar cycles affect life on earth, and how does the moon help us measure time and seasons? So glad you asked…

The Moon Is Our Nightlight

According to NASA, the moon is the biggest and brightest thing in the night sky that’s visible from Earth. That’s even more amazing when you consider that the moon is 238,855 miles from us—and drifts about 1.5 inches further away from us every year.

The Moon Is Also Our Lifeguard

High tide, low tide, it’s all up to the moon. That’s because the moon’s gravitational pull controls the earth’s tide cycles in the ocean, and to a much lesser extent, the movement of water in lakes and rivers. Physicists believe the moon’s gravitational pull also helps steady the Earth’s axis, allowing us to have regular seasons and consistent periods of sunlight and moonlight.

The Moon Is Just Going Through a Phase

The moon has 8 phases, and mercifully, only one shares its name with a Twilight movie. The moon phases are: new moon (when the moon is barely visible), waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent. The moon cycle repeats once a month (every 29.5 days), and it’s tracked by farmers, sailors, astrologists, pilots, and of course, by Wild Elements. In fact, you can see the moon phase at the top of our newsletter. (Sign up here ☺)

Crossing the Moon Is Basically a Road Trip

The moon is about 2,159 miles across—the same distance from Maine to Michigan. The good news: If you drove on the moon, you’d move way faster, because the lack of gravity (about 1/6 of Earth’s) would make your car much lighter. The bad news? Your car’s engine wouldn’t start, because without any oxygen in the atmosphere, you can’t spark the transmission! Also, Popular Mechanics estimates it would cost $50 million to ship your car to the moon… about the cost of 385 new Teslas. 

The Moon Is a Muse

There are dozens of lunar deities in cultures worldwide, indicating just how captivating this celestial body is to ancient cultures and modern astrology fans alike. Lunar deities can be masculine, feminine, nonbinary, and polygender, and come from all continents. Some of the most famous: Ancient Egypt’s Khonsu, whose name also means “traveler,” and Ancient Greece’s Artemis, a famed hunter whose bow was shaped like the arc of the moon itself. In Ancient China, Chang’e was a moon goddess who still inspires people today as the namesake of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. And of course, we can’t forget the anime goddess Sailor Moon, who’s fighting evil by moonlight and winning love by daylight… at least on Hulu and HBO Max.

P.S. Did you know it's also the Year of the Tiger?