Why is Moon slowly drifting away from Earth?

NASA scientists have revealed that the Moon is slowly drifting away from the Earth at the rate of 3.8 cm per year. The phenomenon didn't used to occur earlier and is possibly the result of Milankovitch cycles.

Updated25 Feb 2023, 08:55 PM IST
According to NASA space scientists, moon is slowly drifting away from the Earth.
According to NASA space scientists, moon is slowly drifting away from the Earth.

In a rare discovery, scientists have found that the Moon is slowly drifting away from the Earth. The Moon is the only natural satellite revolving around the Earth. Earlier, it was assumed that the Moon used to remain at a constant distance from Earth because of gravitational pull, but the new discovery has raised several questions about Moon. According to NASA, the Moon is slowly drifting away from Earth by 3.8 cm per year, reported a UK based website.

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Earlier, the Moon used to be a major part of measuring time as it was used as a calendar by ancient human civilisations. However, the latest discovery has brought a lot of questions about past findings and discovery, reported indy100 website. If the Moon continued to drift away from Earth at the same rate, then it would have possibly collided with Earth around 1.5 billion years ago, which never happened in past. 

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The new discovery of the increasing distance between the Moon and Earth could have been interesting, but is also a “poor guide for the past”, believe Professor Joshua Davies at the Université du Québec à Montréal, research associate Margriet Lantink from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as their colleagues from Utrecht University and the University of Geneva.

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Why is Moon drifting away from Earth? 

Experts believe that “Milankovitch cycles” could be the reason behind the drifting of the Moon away from Earth. The cycles describe the tiny diversion in the shape of the Earth's orbit and its axis and its impacts on the amount of sunlight received on Earth.

The amount of sunlight received the on Earth affect its climate and is an indicator of the periods of wet and dry weather. Milankovitch cycles can might lead to a complete reversal of weather in a region. They were the reason behind the period of greening in the Sahara desert. They are also the major force that impact the size of lakes on Earth.

These cycles and their frequencies also determine the distance between the Moon and the Earth. According to scientists, the Moon was 60,000 km closer to Earth around 2.46 billion years ago, than its present distance. This means the blue planet used to receive 17 hours of sunlight per day.

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First Published:25 Feb 2023, 08:55 PM IST
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