July 9, 2013
Moon Says, “Sayonara Baby!”
One day you walk outside during the night to look at the Moon, but to your surprise the Moon has disappeared permanently! Sounds like the plot to a sci-fi movie, but scientist are now saying that this scenario could actually happen.
Right now, this very moment, as you are reading this, our closest neighbor and what sometimes appears as our guardian, the Moon, is slowly moving away from us. Every year, the Moon uses some of Earth’s rotational energy to push itself approximately 3.8 centimeters higher in its orbit, which is roughly the same speed in which our fingernails grow. Many people take our Moon and its effects on Earth for granted. We do have a lot to thank the Moon for, however. For example, the simple fact that our days are 24 hours long is due to our Moon. Researchers and astronomers say that when the Moon first was formed, it sat at a ridiculously close 22,500 kilometers from us, compared to its present distance of 402,336 km, and the Earth’s days were only five hours long. As the Moon got further away from Earth, however, it implemented a form of a brake system on the Earth that has caused us to slow down to the 24-hour days we now live in. They will continue to slow down the further the Moon gets away from us.
The speed of the planet’s rotation is extremely important to the stability of it. Our seasons depend on the 23-degree tilt and the stability of our planet. If the stability were to disintegrate due to the Moon’s disappearance, our seasons would become extreme. Winters across the globe would be as freezing as the Antarctic, and our summers as hot as the African deserts. Fortunately for us, we have the ability to adapt to our environment. Plants and animals, on the other hand, would not be able to adapt so quickly and would probably all die. The good news, though, is that we don’t have to worry about this for a long time, when and if the Moon does eventually drift so far away it leaves our plane and if humans are still around, we will probably already have another planet we call home. Or maybe just different ways of surviving on this planet. Either way, even though we have nothing to worry about at this current moment, we still should not take our Moon for granted, as one day it may not be here to illuminate our nighttime adventures anymore.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com