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Gravity on the surface of the Moon

  1. Jul 18, 2006 #1
    I recently heard someone claim that not too very long ago newtonian theory based on the size of the moon predicted gravity on the moons surface would be 1/4 that of earth. The actual observation was that it is 1/6 that of earth. The conclusion supposedly is the moon is made of material less dense than that of earth.

    can someone tell me if in fact it was a surprise back in 1969 , and if we now know whether the needed mass of the moon to make the observation agree with the theory is supporeted by the material , dust layer depth etc ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 18, 2006 #2


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    No, we knew the mass and density of the Moon back in 1969, and way back before then. Otherwise the Apollo astronauts would never have got home.

  4. Jul 18, 2006 #3
    Thanlks garth

    Well , I agree inferences could have been made etc.

    But , the exerted gravity is a function of both the mass and the distance from the surface of the moon to its center of mass.

    How could we have known the diameter until an orbiter went around it

    Isnt it true that some of the first orbiters crashed early becasue the actual gravity was higher than expected ( or anomylous on the far side not sure which)

    It seems that the only way we derive the mass is by knowing the distance and plugging it into Newtons equation.

    Or do you know of another way to measure the mass?
  5. Jul 18, 2006 #4


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    The diameter of the moon and the properties of its orbit can be directly measured from earth. It is close enough for that.
    No, the early "landers" were quite simply not designed with the ability to land.
  6. Jul 18, 2006 #5


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    Here's a nice paper on many different methods of measuring the moon's mass, stretching from the time of Isaac Newton to the present day. It's an interesting read!

    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?db_key=AST&bibcode=2002Obs...122...61H&letter=.&classic=YES&defaultprint=YES&whole_paper=YES&page=61&epage=61&send=Send+PDF&filetype=.pdf [Broken]

    - Warren
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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