In the 2003 Jim Carrey film “Bruce Almighty,” Carrey’s character abruptly acquires God-like powers, and makes use of these powers to lasso the full moon and pull it nearer to Earth to woo his beloved. Later within the film, background pictures present TV information experiences about large, unprecedented flooding world wide.
While the movie is clearly fantastical, it does elevate a query: What would occur if the moon have been twice as near Earth than it’s as we speak?
In reality, the flooding state of affairs from the film is not removed from what would possibly truly occur if the moon have been abruptly a lot nearer to Earth, mentioned Neil Comins, a physicist on the University of Maine. The best-known impact of the moon is its gravitational pull on Earth’s oceans, which ends up in two excessive tides and two low tides each day.
But if the moon have been half the gap from Earth as it’s now, the tides can be eight occasions larger, Comins informed Live Science. Some islands can be fully underwater for a lot of the day, and populated coastlines would possible grow to be uninhabitable due to the excessive tides, he added.
But larger ocean tides would not be the one results of a more in-depth moon. The moon additionally has a tidal impact on Earth’s land, Comins mentioned.
If the moon have been abruptly twice as near Earth, the impact can be like hitting a gong with a mallet, Comins mentioned: Waves of vitality would reverberate via the planet as a result of sudden elevated power of the moon’s gravitational pull.
And that sudden whack of gravity “would truly impression the Earth’s crust, which suggests it’d set off extra earthquakes, would possibly set off extra volcanic eruptions,” mentioned Jazmin Scarlett, a historic and social volcanologist on the Queen Mary University of London.
Take, for instance, Jupiter’s moon Io, probably the most volcanically energetic world within the solar system, Scarlett mentioned. Io’s volcanism outcomes from the push and pull from the gravity of Jupiter and two of its different moons. Earth would possibly see an analogous destiny if the moon have been abruptly half as shut.
Along with all of the sudden buckling of the planet’s crust, Earth’s spin would gradual over time. This is as a result of, because the moon’s gravity pulls the oceans, the ensuing friction between the ocean ground and water slows Earth’s spin. Today, Earth’s rotation is slowing by about one-thousandth of a second per century, Comins mentioned. If the moon have been half the gap away, Earth’s rotation would gradual much more, dragging out our days and nights.
If we have been to outlive the sudden earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lengthening of days and nights, and better tides, a minimum of we might get to see extra frequent solar eclipses. Because the moon would cowl a bigger space of the sky, it could be extra prone to go in entrance of the sun from our perspective, Comins mentioned. We’d even nonetheless have the ability to see the sun’s corona (outer ambiance) shining across the darkish silhouette of the moon, however not as clearly, he added. Otherwise, the moon and its phases would look about the identical, solely greater within the sky.
And what if the moon have been to slowly spiral towards Earth, moderately than simply shifting abruptly? The planet’s crust and tides would shift extra steadily, hopefully letting life modify, Scarlett mentioned. The longer days and nights may change our local weather and drive evolutionary adjustments in a number of methods, Scarlett mentioned. Animals must adapt to a brighter moon at evening. For instance, prey might need to discover ways to disguise higher at evening, as predators might need extra gentle when looking.
While a superpower-bestowing Morgan Freeman will not be the reason for an Earth-moon shake-up, may something pure trigger the moon to float nearer to Earth?
This is wild hypothesis in fact, however Comins selected a solution: “If a sufficiently massive object passed close to the Earth-moon system, and the moon was in the right place of its orbit as this thing went by, this thing could potentially take energy from the moon, and that would cause it to spiral in closer to us,” Comins mentioned.
So it could take a large asteroid whizzing by Earth on the precise proper place on the precise proper time to probably push the moon towards us like a ball circling a drain. Of course, even when that did occur, it could nonetheless take many, a few years for the moon to get half the gap away as it’s now, so Earth would not really feel the consequences immediately.
Originally revealed on Live Science.