The debate over the speed of Earth’s rotation: could it be accelerated?

The debate over the speed of Earth's rotation: could it be accelerated?

In the last hours, experts from the Fish trap They achieved the most accurate measurements in human history of the rotation of Mars And they discovered for the first time how the planet oscillates due to the “surge” of its molten metal core. They also detected that the rotation of the Red Planet It is accelerating by about 4 milliseconds per year. Following these findings, the debate on the situation of the Earth It gained ground again.

Either because it spins faster, or slower; Or because its core accelerated, or slowed down. Or, even, because its axis was modified and is now slightly “crooked”. News about our planet grows as scientists analyze its “Health status“. However, being the celestial body that contains us, it is irremediable to analyze in What state it is.

It is that, while Mars suffers the “reduction of the length of the Martian day in a fraction of millisecond per year”, specialists on Earth analyze what happens on our planet. To know what the debate is about this terrestrial reality, Infobae spoke with the professor and doctor Raul Roberto Podestá, physicist specialized in Solar Physics, Professor and Researcher at the National University of Formosa (UNaF) and Director of the Nova Persei II Observatory; and Manuel Mazzanti, a specialized journalist who has covered the space program for more than 13 years as the only Spanish-language reporter from Cape Canaveral.

According to recent data released by the FISH TRAP after analysing the information provided by the InSight instrumentsA radio transponder and antennas known as the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment or RISE, Mars’ rotation accelerates by about 4 milliarcseconds per year, which equates to a Reduction in Martian day length by a fraction of a millisecond per year.

And while the red planet is the most recent news, science, in the hands of experts, evaluates the speed of the Earth for decades and its debate returns to the most important academic tables in the world. One of the latest information on the speed of rotation of the Earth It was toasted almost a year ago, on August 3, 2022, when it was reported that our planet had the shortest day in its history. According to the experts, this situation was related to a wobble of its axis, which caused it to complete the “day” with a second less.

To be exact, and chronologically, In 2020 the planet experienced its shortest day since the 1960s. On July 19 of that year, the balloon completed its rotation in 1.4602 milliseconds less than the usual 86,400 seconds, that is, 24 hours a day. But in addition, that same year, they identified themselves 28 “shorter” days. Now, in 2022 these “savings” were even greater.

On June 29 of last year the complete rotation of the globe was made in 1.59 milliseconds less than the 86,400 seconds that make up a day, according to the website While July 26, 2022 was 1.50 milliseconds shorter.

The truth is that this trend, which is evident in the numbers, also has a counterpart. It is that scientists have seen a reversal in recent years and the reasons behind this phenomenon are the subject of scientific debate. From the Chandler’s wobble, which was first detected in the 1880s, to factors such as ocean tides and lunar gravity, theories abound.

One of these hypotheses focuses on what was argued by a group of scientists composed of Leonid Zotov, Christian Bizouard and Nikolay Sidorenkov: the Chandler wobble. This phenomenon is described as a deviation in the Earth’s axis of rotation, which was discovered by astronomer Seth Carlo Chandler, produces The poles wobble in a 14-month cycle.

This phenomenon is influenced by factors such as ocean tides, atmospheric pressure and movements of the Earth’s mantle. Although it is a cyclical pattern, its amplitude and phase can undergo variations. To put it with an analogy, this wobble in the Earth’s axis of rotation could be assimilated to the tremor observed in aI break that gains or loses momentum.

When you want to talk about the speed of rotation of the Earth, experts detail that “it rotates normally, and we have it measured, in 23 hours 56 minutes 4 seconds,” according to Podestá. In that sense, he explained that our planet has an “angular velocity of 7.27 radians per second and a linear or tangential velocity of 1,770 kilometers per hour, which is not the same as angular velocity.”

With this data on the table, it was that the expert said that, at present, “there are those who are ensuring that the Earth is rotating 1.59 milliseconds faster in relation to the usual turn of time. But on the other hand, it’s also being denied that it’s real that it’s spinning more quickly.” Moreover, he said, “some specialists, including NASA itself, deny it and claim that it has been slowing down for a long time.“.

“These changes, in the distant future, will make the day slightly longer, according to some specialists, also from NASA. But, being such low values, milliseconds, it is difficult to measure it, “explained the Director of the Courses of the Ibero-American League of Astronomy.

If it is true that the Earth rotates more quickly, that is, of the order of 1.59 milliseconds, although NASA said it is false, this phenomenon may be related to the melting of the ice., which would cause the Earth to have a much greater rotation and greater speed due to the distribution of the mass of the planet,” said Podestá.

In that sense, Mazzanti said that, as a result of the latest research, “there may be many factors that may have influenced this situation”, such as “the melting of the poles and global warming, among other factors; even if this does not affect our daily lives at all.” There are scientific papers that talk about it, but the truth is that there is no specific cause for why the Earth now rotates a little faster, especially in the last 50 years.” he added.

“This situation, more than anything, would be linked to the issue of climate change, melting ice and a greater volume of water due to melting glaciers. Especially because of the accumulation of water in the reservoirs of the northern hemisphere, which have much greater volume than before, although There is no conclusive cause” said the specialist.

In any case, Mazzanti warned, in tune with NASA experts, that “It is very likely that it will be temporary and that the speed will slow down again in the coming years, although of this we are not sure, of course.“. I think it’s also related to global warming that is causing more natural disasters than before. So, there must be a correlation between both phenomena,” the specialist added.

Beyond its relationship with the length of the day, experts warn of the appearance of other phenomena. “What would be the consequences? Initially, if it is really that time, the consequences are minimal. But if it increases, it would also increase the speed at which major hurricanes occur. The Coriolis effect, which is an effect due to rotation, would also increase over time,” Podestá said.

This effect is summarized as the planet causes things not to move in a straight line, but on its surface (like the wind) and to deviate a little from their path, taking a curve.

For his part, Mazzanti assured that this increase in speed “It would not affect our daily life at all, although it can do so in those devices or constellations of high precision, for example GPS. You may need to adapt them to the micromilliseconds of difference.”

“We’re talking about a very small difference in years or centuries. But that difference can mean a failure of precision in atomic clocks or GPS constellations, “said the specialist. At the same time he recalled that, unlike what happens on Mars, the situation on Earth depends on its own characteristics. “Each planet, depending on its characteristics, can have a very small variation in its rotation speed. The greater the complexity of the planet and the greater the factors, this variation may or may not increase,” he concluded.


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