The Apache Pow Wow

Receding Moon

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Receding Moon

Yoko Inoue, Staff Writer

Looking up at the glowing moon, we never really take the time to fully appreciate its existence. We know that the moon will always be there for us. But what if it won’t? Studies have shown that the moon is being pushed away 1.49 inches or 3.8 centimeters every year, which is about the same rate your fingernails grow. The cause for this increase is the tidal bulge.

The moon is closest to the mid-sections of earth, the equatorial regions. Because of this, the oceans in those regions are pulled toward the moon with greater force, creating higher tides. This is called a tidal bulge, and it looks a bit like a football from the side. Since earth spins much faster than the moon, the tidal bulge tries to increase the moon’s speed the tiniest bit. Reacting to this, the moon also pulls on the tidal bulge, slowing earth down. This affects the orbit of the moon, causing it to widen every year. To put it in a nutshell, the moon is rotating further and further away from earth every year because of earth’s tides.

4.5 billion years ago, when the moon had just formed near earth, the distance between these two were only 14,000 miles. A round trip from here to Japan is roughly 12,000 miles. Imagine how big the moon must have looked! But now the moon is 238,900 miles away. The days that used to be a mere five hours are now 24 hours long, and it will continue slowing down in the future.

As Doctor Maggie Aderin-Pocock once stated, “As the Earth’s rotation slows down, our whole planet may start to slowly wobble and this will have a devastating effect on our seasons.” An example of this would be that a place might be scorching hot like an inferno during the summer but freezing cold during the winter. Once the earth becomes unstable, there will be greater temperature swings.

All this might sound frightening, but fear not! Since every little change is happening slower than at snail’s pace, humans might not even be around when seasons start to become more aggressive and days become longer. Even if humans are alive, we are very adaptable creatures. The moon receding too far away from earth is not an imminent concern. The slight increase in distance that we might be able to observe is not having a total eclipse anymore. Still, when it becomes night time, go outside to gaze at the moon. Admire it for its luminous face. One day in the far off future, there might come a time when we won’t even be able to see it!

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Receding Moon