Published: Thu, June 07, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

How the Moon influences time on Earth

How the Moon influences time on Earth

A new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that 1.4billion years ago, a day on Earth lasted just over 18 hours. Geoscientists are of the opinion that the days on earth are getting longer. What's even more interesting is that according to them, the moon will keep on moving further away from our planet, making days even longer than they are now.

Now, using a new method, called astrochronology, Meyers and colleagues were able to devise a novel way to calculate the moon's influence on the days on Earth. These variations are also determining how and where the light and warmth coming from the Sun in distributed on the surface of Earth, therefore these Milankovitch cycles are also influencing the climatic rhythm of Earth.

The movement of all planets is affected by other astronomical objects that surround them, based upon their size, mass density and distance; all stars, planets, and moon exert a gravitational pull on each other. These estimations provided him data regarding the climate cycles of the Earth.

Meyer, the study's co-author, said, "One of our ambitions was to use astrochronology to tell time in the most distant past, to develop very ancient geological time scales". They also found that the Moon has moved about 44,000 kilometres away from Earth over the last 1.4 billion years or so and continues to drift away at a rate of 3.82 centimetres year after year. According to fresh calculations, a day on Earth was a full five hours and fifteen minutes shorter a billion or so years ago, well before complex life spread around the planet.

Prof. Meyers and his team are seeking better ways of knowing what our planetary neighbours were doing billions of years ago.

As the Earth's rotation gradually winds down, the moon moves further away.

Without the moon, Earth could slow down enough to become unstable, but this would take billions of years and it may never happen at all.

This is why study Meyers worked in conjunction with Columbia University's Alberto Malinverno. Malinverno and Meyers combined "astronomical theory, geologic data, and a sophisticated statistical approach" to create a tool that allowed them to account for the uncertainty of the Earth-Moon relationship when studying rock samples. Then they tested it on two rock layers: the Xiamaling Formation in China that dates back 1.4 billion years, and the 55 million-year-old Walvis Ridge in the south Atlantic.

The two researchers then developed a statistical model which linked astronomical theory with geological observations.

Over billions of years time has changed significantly on earth, because the Solar System has many moving parts, including the other planets orbiting the sun.

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