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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: your questions (17)

Distant Moon

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
20 February 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Your Question: Is the Moon getting further away?

The short answer is yes, the Moon is getting further away - it is retreating from Earth by 3.8 cm per year.

Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background
Image: NASA, JPL
Source: NASA, JPL
 
The history of the Moon gives us clues about its future. Over 4.5 billion years ago, a planet-sized body collided with a young Earth. Although most of the impact was absorbed into the still-molten Earth, the collision threw debris into space. A large section of this debris solidified in orbit around Earth and formed our Moon. The Moon has been slowly getting further from Earth since then.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Image: NASA
Source: NASA
 
If we were to fast-forward from the impact event to about 1.2 billion years ago (over 3 billion years after the Moon formed), the Moon was still relatively close to Earth; much more so than it is today. As a result, the Moon’s gravitational effect on Earth was greater, and the tides were 20 per cent stronger than they are today. The Moon would have appeared much larger in the sky, although there was no life on earth equipped to see it.

Earth as seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 Mission Earth as seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 Mission
Image: NASA
Source: NASA
 
If we fast-forward again, this time 600 million years into the future, the moon will have less influence on Earth - ocean tides will be significantly weaker. From Earth the Moon will appear tiny by today’s standards and events like eclipses will no longer be visible.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Moon rocks land at Melbourne Museum

Dynamic Earth: How the Moon formed

Australia Day

Author
by Katrina
Publish date
26 January 2012
Comments
Comments (0)

Your Question: What is the history of our national holiday?

The tradition of celebrating Australia Day as a national public holiday was established in Australia's first colony, Sydney, and has persevered since the early nineteenth century.

Medal - Australia's 150th Anniversary, 1938: Raising the British flag at Sydney Cove after the landing by Captain Arthur Phillip, January 26, 1788. Medal - Australia's 150th Anniversary, 1938: Raising the British flag at Sydney Cove after the landing by Captain Arthur Phillip, January 26, 1788.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Sydney almanacs originally referred to it as First Landing Day or Foundation Day, in celebration of the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip in Sydney on January 26, 1788. It was not until the thirtieth anniversary of European settlement, in 1818, that Governor Lachlan Macquarie officially created a public holiday in New South Wales. During this time other newly founded colonies were also celebrating their own beginnings, through sporting events, picnics and anniversary dinners.

Australia Day celebrations in Melbourne, 1916: the car in the foreground won first prize for the most decorated car. Australia Day celebrations in Melbourne, 1916: the car in the foreground won first prize for the most decorated car.
Image: Mrs C.M. Chisholm
Source: Museum Victoria
 

January 26 in 1888 marked the centenary of European settlement, however attitudes towards the celebration were mixed. The date was primarily associated with New South Wales rather than all the colonies. Nevertheless, the celebrations across Australia assisted to create a greater sense of cohesion between the separate colonies as they attempted to forget Australia's 'convict stain' and focus on the future. From the 1880s this was signified with a movement towards a national holiday, perhaps made easier by the achievement of Federation in 1901. However it was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories used the name 'Australia Day' to mark the date.

Badge – South Australia Public Service Australia Day, 26 July 1918. Badge – South Australia Public Service Australia Day, 26 July 1918.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

For Indigenous Australians, for whom the date represented invasion and an irrevocable impact upon their culture, land and population, there was no cause for celebration. During the sesquicentenary events in 1938, approximately 100 Aboriginal protesters gathered in Sydney to present a different view of the celebrations. For the protestors and those represented, Australia Day was instead 'a day of mourning', highlighting the loss of life, land and language that was a cause of the European occupation of Australia.

Badge – ‘White Australia has a Black History,’ Australia, 1988 Badge – ‘White Australia has a Black History,’ Australia, 1988
Image: Heath Warwick (photographer)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The protest demanded new laws that would ensure equality for Aboriginal people in the wider Australian community, such as citizenship rights. From this time, new voices were arising to question the celebratory status of Australia Day. This gained impetus during the 1988 Bicentenary with numerous protests staged across Australia including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people declaring Australia Day a commemoration rather than a celebration of Australia's history.

Bicentenary display, <i>Window’s on Victoria</i> exhibition, Melbourne Museum, 2000-2007. Bicentenary display, Windows on Victoria exhibition, Melbourne Museum, 2000-2007.
Image: Benjamin Heally
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Material objects, such as badges, coins and t-shirts, have often been disseminated to commemorate Australia Day. Many of these are in Museum Victoria's collection and can be viewed on Collections Online. These items remind us of the different meanings that Australia Day can have for Australia's diverse population. They also provide us with an understanding of the various circumstances leading up to Australia Day's consistent recognition by all States and Territories on January 26 for the first time in 1994, and as we know it today.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Australia Day: History

Australia Day Student Resources: Indigenous Australians

The science of poo

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
22 January 2012
Comments
Comments (5)

Your Question: Why do scientists study animal poo?

Poo is truly fascinating stuff. Each deposit contains a minefield of information about its owner and the environment it lives in.

Animal poos (scats) come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes. Each species produces its own unique parcels. You can therefore discover which species are present in an area (and how abundant they are) by looking at what they leave behind.

The square droppings of a Common Wombat, <i>Vombatus ursinus</i> The square droppings of a Common Wombat, Vombatus ursinus
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife
 

The relative size of a deposit can also give you an idea of the age/size of he/she who dunnit. Sometimes, it's even possible to determine the sex and reproductive receptivity of the animal (by the smell).

The condition of the scat (taking recent weather conditions into account) will tell you how recently the animal was there – if it's still fragrant and sticky, you know you're fresh on the trail.

An animal's poo can also reveal the diet of the depositor. Long-term studies of scats can provide information about how animals' diets change over time and the seasonal abundance of their food sources.

A broken-up scat of a Thorny Devil <i>Moloch horridus</i>, revealing that  it has fed exclusively on ants. A broken-up scat of a Thorny Devil Moloch horridus, revealing that it has fed exclusively on ants.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife
 

The scats of carnivorous (meat-eating) animals can be an invaluable source of information about the presence and abundance of their prey species. Fur, teeth and bones are not usually digested as they pass through the digestive system and come out relatively intact. As foxes and owls are far better at finding small animals than we are, scats can contain crucial records for scientists studying endangered species.

The scat of a European Red Fox <i>Vulpes vulpes</i> The scat of a European Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Poo is also a useful indicator of animal health. Scats contain parasites, hormones and DNA (in the animal's own skin and hair cells). Scientists can therefore use the clues in poos to monitor infections, perform genetic analyses and gather information on stress levels and reproductive state, all without touching or even seeing the animal.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Square Poo

Plague Soldier Beetles

Author
by Jo
Publish date
15 January 2012
Comments
Comments (146)

Your Question: What are these swarming beetles in my garden?

The Discovery Centre has received many enquiries over the last few weeks about swarms of beetles in suburban gardens in and around Melbourne; they are Plague Soldier Beetles, Chauliognathus lugubris.

Plague Soldier Beetles Plague Soldier Beetles
Image: Peter Saunders
Source: Peter Saunders
 

 

This flattened, elongated, soft-bodied beetle has a thin yellow-orange stripe across the back of the pronotum. It has metallic olive green elytra (hardened forewings), covering most of a yellow-orange abdomen. The legs, head, antennae and rest of the pronotum are black and the beetle is usually about 15mm in length. This native species has earned its common name of the Plague Soldier Beetle not as a result of bringing or spreading any dangerous plagues, rather due to its habit of forming huge mating swarms.

 

Plague Soldier Beetles Plague Soldier Beetles
Image: Peter Saunders
Source: Peter Saunders
 

 

The larvae of this species live in the soil and feed on soft bodied invertebrates, while the adults feed on pollen and nectar. The species is found across large parts of the country including urban areas and adults can be seen from spring through to autumn. During their mating periods they can appear in such large numbers that it is not uncommon for them to weigh down the limbs of weaker plants.

Their bright colour warns off predators as they are capable of releasing distasteful chemicals and would not make a good meal. For homeowners who may be hosting huge numbers of this colourful species, don't be too concerned, following the mating swarm the beetles tend to disperse.

 

Got a question? Ask us!

New location for Your Questions

Author
by Jo
Publish date
14 January 2012
Comments
Comments (0)

After four years, and hundreds of questions, the Discovery Centre's online Question of the Week and Your Questions articles are moving house to the MV Blog.

Horse heam moving a house Horse team moving a house from Creswick through Allendale, Victoria, circa 1909. (MM 001930)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We will still be answering all of your curious and quirky questions, but you will now have the chance to get to know us a little better. The weekly blog posts by the folks of the Melbourne Museum and Immigration Museums Discovery Centres will appear as Your Questions here on the MV Blog. This is the place to go to read about interesting facts, see curious objects, and become the person everyone wants on their pub trivia team. Read all the weird and wonderful questions the museum staff are asked, and even better, find out the answers!

Links:

Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre Question of the Week archive

Immigration Discovery Centre Your Questions archive

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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