This composite image of the Earth and Moon is OSIRIS-REx's MapCam instrument data on October 2, 2017
Credit: NASA/OSIRIS-REx team and the University of Arizona

Given the infinite size of the Universe, Earth's natural satellite is its cosmic next-door neighbor, as shown by this image from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

The spacecraft is on its way to an asteroid, Bennu, that could possibly someday collide with Earth — though not “for several centuries,” according to NASA. OSIRIS-Rex will — if all goes to plan — reach the asteroid in December. But in the meantime, it's sending back fascinating photos of our world.

Three images taken from a distance of about 3 million miles from Earth were used to create the above composite.

How Far Is the Moon From Earth?

It all depends on when you ask, because the distance between the Earth and the moon is constantly shifting. On average, the moon is 238,855 miles from Earth, but it changes according to the time of year. The moon orbits Earth in an elliptical orbit, so it has a point each month when it's closest to Earth (called perigee) and a point when it's furthest away (called apogee). Its orbit is not a perfect circle, and the difference between perigee and apogee is about 25,000 miles. That's roughly 10% of the average distance between the Earth and the moon.

Ever heard of a Micromoon? They don't get as much attention as Supermoons, but they occur when a Full moon happens close to the moon's farthest apogee of the year. In 2018 that will occur on January 15, when the moon will be 252,565 miles away. Either way, January 2018 is a fine month for moon-gazing.

How Long Does It Take to Get to the Moon?

It's no day-trip: The Apollo astronauts of the 1960s and 1970s took three days to reach the moon. However, the moon is not always the same distance away from Earth and today it's the closest it ever gets.

At 221,559 miles from Earth, the moon was, on the first day of 2018, at its closest perigee point of the year. When the moon being at perigee coincides with its full phase, it's a very special occasion — a Supermoon. On this night our moon can appear to look larger than usual — though only if you watch it rise above the (eastern) horizon at sunset.

Is the Moon Bigger Than Earth?

While the diameter of the Earth is 7,917 miles (making the circumference 24,901 miles), the moon is only 2,159 miles wide (for a circumference of 6,786 miles).