In Depth

How the Moon may one day give us 25-hour days

Scientists say Earth’s orbit is slowing as Moon moves further away

Days on Earth are getting longer as the Moon gradually moves away from our planet, a study has found.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have worked out that around 1.4 billion years ago, a day on Earth lasted 18 hours. “This is at least in part because the Moon was closer and changed the way the Earth spun around its axis,” the Daily Mirror reports.

The “groundbreaking” discovery -  described in a paper in journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Science - was made using astrochronology, a statistical method that links astronomical theory with geological observation, and that could potentially help uncover many mysteries of the universe.

The researchers were able to determine that the Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 3.82cm a year, The Daily Telegraph reports. At that rate, a full day on Earth will extend to 25 hours - in about 200 million years’ time. 

Professor Stephen Meyers, the author of the report, says: “The [Earth’s] geologic record is an astronomical observatory for the early solar system.

“One of our ambitions was to use astrochronology to tell time in the most distant past, to develop very ancient geological time scales.” 

Although the Moon has been moving away from the Earth for more than a billion years, The Guardian says the process won’t continue forever. 

At some point in the distant future, the Moon will “reach a stable distance” and will only be visible from one side of Earth, the newspaper says.

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