(ORDO NEWS) — The closest object to our planet is the Moon, which is similar to the younger brother of the Earth. It is possible that the satellite played a key role in the formation of life on our planet more than 3.5 billion years ago.
Since her birth, the Moon has simply been there, but what if she disappears tomorrow? The full moon is, on average, 14,000 times brighter than the next brightest object in the night sky, Venus. So without her, every night would be as dark as a new moon. And stargazing would be a breathtaking sight.
In general, most would hardly have noticed the disappearance of the satellite immediately. But by the next morning it would be clear how important the Moon is to life on Earth. While a moonless sky would not affect much of our daily life, it would upside-down the lifestyle of many nocturnal animals, such as moths, which have evolved over millions of years.
Newly hatched turtles use the moonlight to find their way to the ocean. Which, in fact, is not easy for them because of the artificial street lighting that lures them in the wrong direction.
Moon, ebb and flow
Matthew Sigler of the Dallas Institute of Paleontology believes that if the Moon disappeared three billion years ago, when it was closer to Earth, many things would change quite dramatically. “Right now, the moon is far enough away that most of the things it does for us are long-term, such as stabilizing the Earth’s orbit for hundreds of thousands of years,” the scientist quotes the publication Discover.
Losing the Moon would also mean losing a huge amount of information about the young Earth. Thanks to tectonic activity, there are no truly ancient rocks on Earth. But the geologically inactive Moon serves as a repository of information about what the Earth and the solar system were like billions of years ago.
For example, the number of craters on the moon tells scientists that roughly 4.1-3.8 billion years ago there was a period of intense asteroid bombardment. Chemical analysis of lunar rocks also helped us find out how much water from our planet was brought to Earth by comets and asteroids.
Since we think that the Moon and Earth formed together during a giant collision with the protoplanet Theia, the study of the Moon is the study of the formation of the Earth.
Without the Moon, the number of ebb and flow would decrease by about 75%. This would jeopardize the lives of many species of crabs, mussels and sea snails that live in intertidal zones, and disrupt the diets of larger animals that rely on them for food, threatening entire coastal ecosystems in the process.
One of the largest spawning events in the world takes place in the Great Barrier Reef. Every November, on the days following the full moon, coral colonies across the reef release millions of eggs and sperm at intervals of almost a few minutes. Scientists are sure that the full moon plays a role in time, but how exactly remains a mystery.
A few decades after the disappearance of the moon, we will observe a massive decline in the animal population at sea and on land.
On land, animals also use lunar signals to reproduce. After living most of their life in the mountains, millions of adult crabs migrate down to the shore. And then, in the last quarter of the moon, the females lay their eggs in the sea.
Length of day and the moon
A wandering moon would also affect the movement of the earth on its axis. The moon’s gravity is currently increasing the length of the day by about two milliseconds every 100 years. Although, if this increase stopped tomorrow, it would not be very noticeable on our human time scale.
But if the Moon disappeared billions of years ago, the Earth’s rotation today would be completely different.
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At the very beginning, our planet had a four-hour rotation, which the Moon slowly and persistently slowed down to the 24-hour day, so familiar to us. Without the presence of the moon all these years, we would still be spinning much faster – and even more feeling that there are not enough hours in the day.
“Everything we know about the seasons would be completely inappropriate,” said Paul Sutter, an astrophysicist at the Flatiron Institute. At a certain angle “in some places of the planet the Sun will almost never be seen, while in others it will hang overhead for months in a row.”
However, the change in the Earth’s tilt will occur gradually, so that we will not notice it instantly or, most likely, even throughout our entire life. But for animals that have evolved over millions of years to live in sync with the seasons, it can be difficult to adapt, even for what seems like a long period of time.
The ebb and flow of currents help to mix cold arctic waters with warmer waters in the tropics. This balances the temperature and stabilizes the climate around the world. Without the Moon, weather forecast would be virtually impossible. The average difference between the hottest and coldest places on Earth can grow to life-threatening extremes.
But none of this compares to the greatest changes that lie ahead over the next millennia. Right now, the Earth is tilting 23.5 ° on its axis, mainly due to the gravity of the Moon. If the moon disappears, the axis of the earth will fluctuate between 10 and 45 degrees.
Some experts believe Jupiter may help keep the Earth’s tilt from spiraling out of control. But even an additional 10 ° tilt can wreak havoc on the climate and seasons. In the past, the Earth’s tilt has changed by about 1-2 °, which, according to scientists, could cause ice ages. It’s hard to say what a 10 or 45 degree tilt would do, but probably no good for most life on Earth.
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