Astronomers estimate that one day the moon could become unstable as the moon drifts further away from the earth each year.
Scientists generally agree that the moon was born 4.5 billion years ago after a Mars-sized planet called Thea hit Earth and hurled a colossal field of debris into space.
The debris eventually formed a ball that stayed in orbit due to the earth’s gravitational drag. the express reports.
However, the moon exerts its own gravitational effect on the planet. This causes effects like the ocean tides as gravity and inertia act on opposite sides of the planet.
On the side of the earth facing the moon, the gravity of the moon pulls the ocean water towards it and creates a bulge. The opposite is the case on the other side of the globe, where inertia creates another bulge.
Because the planet rotates at a speed of nearly 1,000 miles per hour, the bulge is always just in front of the moon. Some of the energy from the bulge is transferred to the moon and gradually pushes the ball into a higher orbit. Just like sitting on the outer part of a spinning carousel, the movement tries to toss the moon away from us.
According to some theories, the moon will fly away from us until it is no longer our closest cosmic neighbor.
Other astronomers speculate that the moon will instead return to our planet one day before being completely wiped out by gravity.
The moon’s orbit around the earth is elliptical and not perfectly round, so it is closer or farther away from us every night. However, on average, the moon is about 385,000 km away.
Astronomers measured this distance from Earth to the moon by shooting lasers at reflector plates that NASA’s Apollo astronauts left on the moon’s surface. Observatories in New Mexico, France, Italy, and Germany fire lasers at the reflectors, measuring the time it takes for the rays to bounce back, showing how far the moon is and how fast it is spinning.
If the moon drifts away from the planet, its departure will likely cause the planet to slow down.
According to the Planetary Science Institute, the tides draw energy from the earth’s rotation. As a result, in about a billion years or so, the earth will be spinning at roughly the same speed as the moon. When this happens, the planet and moon will face the same sides.
The institute stated, “Once the earth gets into this configuration, one can imagine the change in weather patterns that would result.
“The night side would cool down significantly over the long period without solar heating.
“Conversely, the day page would heat up more than it is now.”
This will likely make the earth uninhabitable and put an end to the world as we know it.
The good news, of course, is that none of this will happen anytime soon – at least a few billion years from now. Currently, the moon is drifting away at about 1.48 inches (3.78 cm) per year.
However, if people are still somehow alive billions of years from now, people will look up and see a very different night sky.
According to the Planetary Institute, once the rotation of the moon and earth match, the moon will likely stop migrating into the solar system and start crawling onto the planets instead.
As it nears Earth, gravity will tear the lunar ball apart, creating a debris field around the Earth, much like the rings of Saturn.
Astronomers have already observed this effect on the Martian moon Phobos.
The Planetary Institute said: “For the earth-moon system, our moon will be so close to earth in a few billion years that the earth’s gravity will pull it apart.”
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