June 8, 2024 at 9:51 am

The Moon Is Slowly Drifting Away, But Could It Ever Escape Earth Entirely?

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

When you really sit down and think about the big questions – and the big truths – that exist in our universe, the feeling can get a bit overwhelming.

Like, for example, what would happen if the moon suddenly escaped our orbit?

While it is moving slowly away from us, scientists say we don’t have to worry about losing it altogether.

At least, not as far as they know.

The Moon was created 4.5 billion years ago, probably when Earth collided with a planet named Theia.

Their orbits have changed over time, and thanks to our Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment, we know that the Moon is now moving slowly away from us.

Source: Shutterstock

This is calculated from the reflectors that Apollo astronauts placed on the Moon decades ago. When we aim lasers at them we can determine the distance between the two points to within 1.2 inches.

The Moon, then, is moving away at a rate of about 1.5 inches every year.

It hasn’t always been moving this way, because if it had, the Moon would have collided with Earth 1.5 billion years ago.

Evidence like layers in rock and coral can provide estimates as far as the distance from the Moon based on the average length of the days here on Earth.

Once the Moon gets far enough away, lunar scientist Richard Vondrak says the total solar eclipse will be a thing of the past.

“Over time, the number and frequency of total solar eclipse will decrease. About 600 million years from now, Earth will experience the beauty and drama of a total solar eclipse for the last time.”

While experts expect the Moon to continue to drift, it will never totally break free of our orbit.

At least, not before the Sun consumes us both.

Make sure to enjoy those nighttime views before now!

If you thought that was interesting, you might like to read about a second giant hole has opened up on the sun’s surface. Here’s what it means.