ROBERT GENDLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROBERT GENDLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Full Moon. The north pole of the Moon is at bottom. The dark areas are lunar "seas", low basins that were filled with dark lava early in the Moon's history. The brighter areas are rugged highlands. The same face of the Moon always points towards the Earth. This situation has arisen as tidal forces from Earth slowed the Moon's rotation until it exactly matched its orbital period. The Moon lies some 385,000 kilometres from Earth and completes one orbit in just over 27 days, but it takes just over 29 days to reach the same phase as seen from Earth, as during the month both the Earth and the Moon move relative to the Sun, the source of the Moon's illumination.
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