The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite. It is the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System and the largest and most massive relative to its parent planet, with a diameter about one-quarter that of Earth. The Moon is a planetary-mass object with a differentiated rocky body, making it a satellite planet under the geophysical definitions of the term and larger than all known dwarf planets of the Solar System. It lacks any significant atmosphere, hydrosphere, or magnetic field. Its surface gravity is about one-sixth of Earth’s at 0.1654 g.
The Moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 384,400 km, or about 30 times Earth’s diameter. Its gravitational influence is the main driver of Earth’s tides and very slowly lengthens Earth’s day. The Moon’s orbit around Earth has a sidereal period of 27.3 days. During each synodic period of 29.5 days, the amount of visible surface illuminated by the Sun varies from none up to 100%, resulting in lunar phases that form the basis for the months of a lunar calendar. The Moon is tidally locked to Earth, which means that the length of a full rotation of the Moon on its own axis causes its same side (the near side) to always face Earth, and the somewhat longer lunar day is the same as the synodic period. However, 59% of the total lunar surface can be seen from Earth through cyclical shifts in perspective known as libration.
The most widely accepted origin explanation posits that the Moon formed 4.51 billion years ago, not long after Earth, out of the debris from a giant impact between the planet and a hypothesized Mars-sized body called Theia.