How Big is The Moon Really?

The full moon appears quite small in the sky but how big is it?

The Moon looks very small when we look at it in the night sky but actually it is very large. The surface area is so large that central Europe would easily fit on just the part that we see from here on Earth. In fact, you would need to join together all of Europe plus China, the USA, Brazil and South Africa to cover the whole of the Moon’s surface.

So even though it is very big, it is still a lot smaller than the Earth. The Earth weighs 81 times more than the Moon. Size-wise, it is 3500km wide (the Earth is 12,700km). In our Solar System there are four moons larger than ours – Ganymede (Jupiter), Titan (Saturn), Callisto (Jupiter) and Io (also Jupiter) but when you consider all of the moons of all of the planets in the Solar System, it is the largest when compared to its planet. It is even bigger than the dwarf planet Pluto.

The reason it seems quite small from Earth is that it is a long way from us. The International Space Station is 377 km away, if the Moon were in the same orbit, it would be ripped apart by gravitational forces. Satellites that beam down TV signals are 36,000 km away … but the Moon isn’t that close either!

In fact it is more than ten times the distance of the TV satellites at an average of about 380,000km away. Now that’s a long way. In a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, you can fly to the other side of the Earth in under a day. If your 747 pilot decided to fly to the moon, it would take almost a month of continuous flying! In the fastest of our spacecraft, which can fly more than 10 times faster than a 747, it would still take you 2 days. If you could drive there it would take over a year, even if you didn’t stop for the loo!

James Carson graduated from the University of York with a degree in English and History and have a keen interested in both World Wars and popular science - particularly space.