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Science Win! Penn Researchers Discover the Moon


Photo from NASA / Public Domain

Someone get Neil deGrasse Tyson on the phone— he's going to want to hear this.

Ever looked up into the night sky, sure that there is something out there but unsure of what it is? 

Now, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have put that uncertainty to bed. There is something up there, after all. It's called the moon, and it's awesome.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Nathan Rassa made the epic discovery. Dr. Rassa is an astronomer, which is just a fancy way of saying "sky doctor". His team included men and women from various backgrounds and areas of expertise, united in one common pursuit: figuring out what the hell is in space.

The idea to search for what we now know is called "the moon" came from Dr. Rassa's daughter, Brenda. One night they were chilling outside, staring into the vast dark emptiness of space, when the 8-year-old asked: "Dad, what's that big thing floating up there?"

Dr. Rassa was flummoxed. It couldn't be a building, because it was floating. It couldn't be a leaf or a bird, because there were no trees around and birds can't hover that way for so long without getting tired or thirsty. The next day, Dr. Rassa put the rest of his work on hold and started assembling a research team.

"We used all the technology available to us," Dr. Rassa told us. "We looked at it with a telescope. We held up a ruler to try to get some idea of its size. We looked it up in books and on the internet. Eventually, we put the pieces together. It's a big-ass rock, basically, and it's called the moon. We think that it orbits the Earth."

Wow. This has the potential to change astronomy as we know it.

Despite this breakthrough, the puzzle isn't done. Dr. Rassa tells us that while we now know that the moon exists, we still aren't sure why it exists, or what its purpose is. 

"There's still a lot to learn, but we've made so many interesting discoveries! Did you know that the U.S. government sent men to the moon in 1969? Or that it is featured in many films, books, and poems? In fact, 'MoonPies' are even named after it!" said Dr. Rassa. "The moon has a rich cultural and technological history in our country, and in the world. We're honored to be the ones who cracked the code."