To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Not now
OK
Advert
Advert
Advert

The Moon is slowly drifting away from Earth

Joe Harker

Published 
| Last updated 

The Moon is slowly drifting away from Earth

Featured Image Credit: imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo/Jürgen Fälchle / Alamy Stock Photo

It's doing it very slowly but the Moon is definitely drifting further and further away from the Earth each year.

You might reckon that our Moon is a constant feature in the night's sky, our celestial sentinel reflecting the light of the sun into our lives even at night-time, but it looks like our dear old Moon is edging further away.

Loading…

Advert

Humanity has long looked up at the Moon and wondered what it's like up there, and thanks to the efforts of brave pioneers and incredible scientific advancement, we've managed to get people up there.

Now, attention on the Moon turns towards the possibility that we could one day live there, and if we do end up trying to establish colonies in space, that could cause problems between nations attempting to carve out different parts of the Moon as their territory.

NASA is even awarding contracts for the development of technology that will allow us to construct habitats and roads on the surface of the Moon.

But people who live there might want to be wary that their commute back to Earth doesn't get too long.

Advert
Give it a few million years and the commute to bases on the Moon will be absolute murder. Credit: Science Photo Library / Alamy Stock Photo
Give it a few million years and the commute to bases on the Moon will be absolute murder. Credit: Science Photo Library / Alamy Stock Photo

If I told you that the Moon was getting away from the Earth, you might call me a luna-tic, but scientists have discovered that it's slowly drifting away from us at a rate of 3.8cm a year.

It's not very a-moon-sing to ponder the idea that the Moon is trying to ditch us, but according to NASA, it has been doing just that and since the Moon is four and a half billion years old, it seems like it's trying been to dump us for a while.

This incredible discovery was made thanks to reflective panels installed on the Moon back in 1969 during the Apollo mission, which has allowed NASA to measure the distance between the two.

Advert

However, while that might be happening now it's a 'poor guide for the past', according to Professor Joshua Davies of the Université du Québec à Montréal, research associate Margriet Lantink University of Wisconsin-Madison and their colleagues from Utrecht University and the University of Geneva.

They explain that if the Moon's rate of recession had been a constant, then it would have collided with Earth about 1.5 billion years ago, which is impossible since the Moon is three times older than that.

The Earth and the Moon are breaking up very, very, VERY slowly. Credit: Stockbym / Alamy Stock Photo
The Earth and the Moon are breaking up very, very, VERY slowly. Credit: Stockbym / Alamy Stock Photo

And here's the science-y bit, it's to do with something called 'Milankovitch cycles' where small changes in the Earth's orbit of the Sun change the amount of sunlight that the planet receives.

Advert

These cycles can have a profound effect on our planet's climate and leave their evidence in the very ground itself, and by researching old sediment they can measure the Earth's 'wobble' and figure out how far away the Moon was incredible amounts of time ago.

They found that about 2.46 billion years ago, the Moon was around 60,000km closer to Earth than it is now, which would have resulted in 17 hour days on the planet.

Topics: News, Space, Science, NASA, Technology

Joe Harker
More like this
Advert
Advert
Advert

Chosen for YouChosen for You

News

This is what Earth would look like if all land ice melted

32 minutes ago

Most Read StoriesMost Read

People are raving over 'one of the best' police dramas on Netflix that not many know about

an hour ago