One of the first things we learn in school about the Earth is that it performs two main motions: translation, which is the process by which a planet orbits the sun, and rotation, which makes it orbit the sun. Its own axis, like a crest.
Measurements by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory indicate that this rotational motion is accelerating, which means the Earth is spinning faster, making the days a little shorter.
Scientists warn that if Earth’s rotational rate continues to increase, it may be necessary to “skip a second” of atomic clocks, a decision that could be critical for information technology (IT) systems. According to Meta researchers, this will have serious repercussions for hardware and software infrastructures that rely on timers or schedulers.
But what if the opposite happened? What if the Earth slowed down so much that it stopped spinning? What might happen?
There is one thing we can guarantee: “simply” is not a good adverb to use when talking about this topic, because the consequences of this hypothetical event will only be minor.
This is a recurring topic among space scientists. Everyone has their theories, but they all agree on one point: stopping the Earth’s rotation would be catastrophic for the planet and its inhabitants – that is, all of us.
Marcelo Zurita, President of the Paraiba Astronomy Society (APA), Member of the Brazilian Astronomical Society (SAB) and Technical Director of the Brazilian Meteor Observation Network (BRAMON), as well as a columnist for the newspaper digital lookraises some effects:
- increase the length of the day and nights;
- harsh climates
- The change in the tides
- Change in winds and ocean currents.
- Seismology modifications
- possible disturbances in the magnetic field;
- Great chances of losing the atmosphere.
“This is a very complex topic, and it requires in-depth studies,” Zurita explains. “What we can say, at first, is that the days and nights will last six months, which will be devastating. And that leads to the second theme where the days will be too hot and the nights too cold.”
Over time, two opposing situations can unfold: the world will become very hot on the one hand and it will enter an ice season on the other. The first scenario would be a consequence of the fact that the intense evaporation of water from the oceans on the day side (that is, the face illuminated by the sun) would increase the greenhouse effect and global temperature, which could reach exorbitant levels.
The second hypothesis, that half of the world could enter an ice season, would occur due to the accumulation of snow on the night side, forming a layer of ice so thick that it would not melt even when dawn returns on that part.
According to the Mundo Educação portal, nearly all living things will become extinct. Perhaps some abyssal species can survive, because these organisms have a life dependent on chemosynthesis (the production of organic matter through the oxidation of mineral substances, without resorting to sunlight).
Abyssal animals are aquatic organisms that live under the euphotic region of the ocean, in areas known as abyssal regions, usually more than 2 km deep, with extremely low temperatures and no light.
With the loss of rotational motion, the sea water returns to the poles. According to the Brasil Escola website, it works like a bucket of water: if it stops, the water will fall inside it. The inertia of water is what keeps it in the equator, so, in this hypothetical situation, some oceans will become large deserts, while countries above the tropics will be almost completely submerged, giving the existence of two large oceans in the south and north. . from the globe.
Earthquakes of unimaginable scale
“If the Earth stops spinning, our molten iron core will also stop. But the spinning core works like a dynamo, generating our magnetic field. In other words, if the Earth stops spinning, we lose our magnetic field,” Zurita explains. “Without the magnetic field, we would be defenseless from the solar wind and would constantly hit it. The radiation would be enormous and the gases in our atmosphere would be carried away by these winds, just like on Mars.”
In terms of seismology, tectonic plates – solid masses that meet on top of magma and form the lithosphere (the Earth’s outer rocky layer) – will keep moving and, when colliding with each other, will produce earthquakes of unimaginable scale.
According to Zurita, the interference with gravity occurs primarily at the equator, where centrifugal force reduces the effects of gravity. “Without rotation, the gravity at the equator would be greater and this would force the Earth’s crust to subside in those regions, which could also lead to earthquakes and seismic adaptation.”
If the braking was sudden, it would be even more disastrous. The globe will suddenly go from a speed of about 1675 km/h (at 45° latitude) to zero. However, all buildings, trees, transports and animals, due to their inertia, tend to keep their course at the same speed. The result: everything will fall apart.
However, contrary to what many might think, no one will ever float in space, because the acquired velocity is not enough to overcome the gravitational pull. To escape from Earth, an object would have to travel at a speed of about 11 km/s.
Sounds like scenarios from Hollywood’s scariest movies, right? Fortunately, all this is just assumptions based on an impossible situation. or not?
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