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Looking up at the silvery orb of the Moon, you might recognize familiar shadows and shapes on its face from one night to the next. You see the same view of the Moon our early ancestors did as it lighted their way after sundown. A phenomenon called tidal locking is responsible for the consistent view.

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The Earth and its Moon are in close proximity and thus exert significant gravitational forces on each other. These tidal forces slow the rotations of both bodies. Now the Moon takes one trip around the Earth in the same amount of time it takes to make one rotation around its own axis: about 28 days.

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From Earth, we always see the same face of the Moon; from the Moon, the Earth stands still in the sky. The near side of the Moon is well studied because we can see it. All of the samples from the Apollo missions are from the near side. All sides of the moon experience night and day just like we do here on Earth.

All sides have equal amounts of day and night over the course of a single month. A lunar day lasts about two Earth weeks.

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With modern satellites, astronomers have completely mapped the lunar surface. A Chinese mission, Chang'e 4, is currently exploring the Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon — the first such mission ever landed there.

Despite crashing during an attempted landing earlier this month, the Beresheet team still won the Moon Shot Award. There must be some force holding this pattern in place. Could it be that the center of gravity of the Moon is not in the middle of the Moon?

Why Do We Always See the Same Side of the Moon? |

One side of the Moon always faces the Earth because the spinning period of the Moon is the same as the time it takes for the Moon to orbit around the Earth. This is called tidal locking. This demo on Wikipedia shows how it happens very nicely:. We know that tides here on Earth are caused by dragging of the Moon.

In the reverse, the Earth is also dragging the Moon with its gravity, creating bulges on two sides of the Moon.

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If the Moon does not rotate and revolve at the same period, then the bulges will no longer point directly to and against the Earth. The gravitation force on the two bulges will then become uneven and create a torque to rotate the same side of the Moon back to the Earth.