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Paul, a 12 years old from Aberdeen, Scotland, asked ”Could the Earth stop spinning, and if it did, what would happen?” and the answer was not that simple for adults.
Since its inception four and a half billion years ago, the Earth took no break from rotating.
The Earth was created from the debris left behind after the sun originated from the collapse of a massive cloud of matter.
The debris that became the Earth whirled around the sun like water around a plughole when you drain a bathtub.
After it was created, the Earth continued to orbit the sun and spin, and it will continue to do so for a long time.
The Earth rotates once every 23 hours and 56 minutes.
It also advances a little farther in its one-year orbit around the sun during this period. This implies it has to spin a little more, for four more minutes, before it can face the sun again, indicating that a day on Earth is 24 hours long.
Moving in Space
The Earth continues to spin since there is little that can stop it. If you spin a roundabout in a park and then let go, it will eventually ground to a stop.
This happens because as it spins, the air and playground surface press on it, generating friction and decelerating it slowly.
The Earth is rotating across space, which is mostly empty.
There is no air in space to press against and reduce the Earth’s rotation.
On the other hand, the moon slows down the Earth’s rotation.
Gravity does not fully balance the movement of the Earth’s side facing the moon, nor does it balance the motion of the Earth’s side facing away from the moon.
The ocean waves are caused by this imbalance, which causes the oceans to push out on either side of the Earth and causes the Earth’s rotation to slow down.
It implies that every 50,000 years, the Earth’s day lengthens by one second.
The only thing that could halt the Earth’s rotation would be a collision with another planet.
Even if this may happen, it is more probable to affect how the Earth rotates rather than halt entirely.
You wouldn’t be blasted into space if the Earth stopped rotating.
Gravity would keep you securely planted on the Earth.
However, there would be several adjustments.
If the Earth stopped spinning but continued to circle the sun, a “day” and a “night” would last half a year. It may warm up a lot more throughout the day and cool down a lot more at night.
This would have an impact on the Earth’s climate.
A substantial temperature differential between day and night would generate powerful winds, transporting warm air to the colder, nighttime side of the Earth.
The wind would also blow from the warm equatorial areas to the chilly arctic regions. This does not happen on a spinning Earth because the wind is deflected sideways.
The winds from the east and west and the winds from the poles would collide. They can generate massive wind swirls the size of whole continents.
The Earth’s core is partially molten iron. The Earth’s rotating speed converts this molten iron into a magnet, creating a magnetic field.
This shields humans from dangerous radiation emitted by solar particles and cosmic rays outside the solar system.
While the magnetic field prevents the radiation from reaching us, it does penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere and is visible as the aurora – the northern or southern lights.
This radiation would reach the Earth’s surface if the magnetic field did not exist, making humans ill.
Some birds rely on the magnetic field to navigate; thus, they would get disoriented if the Earth stopped spinning.
Because you would constantly be staring out into space in the same direction if the Earth didn’t rotate, the night sky would always display the same constellations of stars.
This is not the same as seeing the stars rise and set throughout the night or seeing various constellations at different times of the year.