This beautiful picture of the Earth with the moon in the foreground was captured on Oct. 12, 2015, by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mars.
(NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)
Days on the Earth are becoming more like the moon slowly move away from our research.
The moon is about 4.5 billion years old and attends a number of 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers away from Earth, on average. However, as a result of tidal forces between the planet and the moon, the natural satellite spirals slowly away from the Earth with a speed of approximately 1.5 inches (3.82 centimeters) per year, making our planet revolves slowly around its axis.
Using a new statistical method called astrochronology, the astronomers looked for Earth’s deep geological past and reconstructed the planet of the history. This work showed that only 1.4 billion years ago the moon was much closer to the Earth, causing the planet to spin faster and faster. As a result, a day on Earth lasted a little more than 18 hours back then, according to a statement from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [Earth Quiz: Do You Really Know Your Planet?]
“As the moon moves, the Earth is like a spinning figure skater who slows down as they stretch their arms,” study co-author Stephen Meyers, a professor of geoscience at uw-Madison, said in the statement. “One of our ambitions is to use astrochronology to tell time in the most distant past, to the development of very ancient geological time scales. We want to be able to study rocks that are millions of years old, in a way that is similar to how we use the study of modern geological processes.”
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Astrochronology combines astronomical theory with the geological observation, allowing researchers to reconstruct the history of the solar system and better understanding of ancient climate change as recorded in the rock record, according to the statement.
The moon and other bodies in the solar system largely influence the rotation of the Earth, the creation of orbital variations are called Milankovitch cycles. These differences ultimately determine where the sunlight is scattered on Earth, based on the planet rotation and tilt.
The climate of the earth rhythms are recorded in the rock, going back hundreds of millions of years. However, with respect to our planet’s ancient past, stretching over millions of years, this geological record is quite limited, researchers said in the statement.
This can lead to ambiguity and confusion. For example, the current speed at which the moon is moving away from the Earth suggests that “beyond about 1.5 billion years ago the moon would have been close enough that the gravitational interaction with the Earth would have ripped the moon apart,” Meyers said.
With the help of their new statistical method, the researchers were able to compensate for the uncertainty in the time. This approach was tested on two stratigraphic rock layers: The 1.4-billion-year-old Xiamaling Formation from the north of China, and a 55-million-year-old record of Walvis Ridge, in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
The study of the geological record contained in rock layers, and the integration of the degree of uncertainty showed that there are changes in the rotation of the Earth, the orbit and the distance of the moon in the history, as well as how the length of day on Earth has steadily increased.
“The geological record is an astronomical observatory for the early solar system,” Meyers said in the statement. “We are looking into the pulsating rhythm, are preserved in the rock and the history of life.”
The new study was published on Monday (4 June) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Original article on Space.com.