If you saw the full moon last night and the partial eclipse early this morning, you might have noticed that it seemed to be a little smaller than usual. That’s because it was a mini-moon.
The Moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly elliptical. For that reason, it is not always the same distance away from us. The average distance to the Moon is 238,855 miles (384,400 km). When it’s closest to Earth, the distance is 225,623 miles (363,105 km), and we call that “perigee.” When the moon is farthest away, the distance is 252,088 miles (405,696 km), and we refer to that as “apogee.” So the difference in the distance is approximately 26,500 miles (42,648 km), and that’s just enough to make a noticeable difference in and size.
Since the Moon is now at apogee, the result was that the full moon last night was smaller, and some people call it a “mini-moon.” Why should we care about the distance to the Moon? Two things make our Moon unique as compared to other moons in our solar system. The Moon’s orbit is less elliptical than that of other moons, and it is also the largest compared to the size of the planet it orbits. Because of its size and orbit, the Moon has many beneficial effects on our planet.
We have previously discussed some of the beneficial effects of the Moon, such as HERE, HERE, and HERE. However, perhaps the most crucial benefit is that it gives stability to Earth’s rotation. Spin a top, and you will notice that it tends to wobble in its rotation. That wobble is called “precession.” Without the Moon’s stabilizing effect, the Earth would wobble, causing instability in our seasons, climate, and weather. In other words, without the Moon, our planet could not support advanced life.
Even if you call it a mini-moon, the Moon is the right size and distance with an orbit that is only slightly elliptical. Because of those precise design factors, we can look up at the full moon and thank the Designer who gave us everything we need to make Earth our home.
— Roland Earnst © 2021