What Would Happen If The Moon Disappeared


(dramatic instrumental music)
(clicking) – [Announcer] Our moon is on the move. Each year it drifts an
estimated 1.5 inches further away from Earth
and in the process, Earth’s rotation is actually slowing down. What if one night the
moon simply disappeared? Would we miss it? (dramatic instrumental music) A full moon is on average
14,000 times brighter than the next brightest
night sky object, Venus. Without it, every night would
be as dark as a new moon and stargazing would be spectacular, but by the next morning, you’d begin to realize just
how important the moon is for life on Earth. To start, between the sun,
Earth’s rotation, and the moon, the moon has the largest
influence on Earth’s tides. Without it, high and
low tides would shrink by an estimated 75%. This would jeopardize the
lives of many types of crabs, muscles, and sea snails
that live in tidal zones and disrupt the diets of
larger animals who rely on them for food, threatening
entire coastal ecosystems in the process. Within a few decades, we would start to see
mass population declines in the sea and on land. One of the largest spawning
events in the world occurs in the Great Barrier Reef. Each November in the
days following the light of a full moon, corral
colonies across the Reef, spanning an area larger than
the state of New Mexico, release millions of egg and sperm sacks within nearly minutes of one another. Scientists are certain that
the full moon plays a role in the timing, but exactly
how remains a mystery. On land, animals like these
red crabs also use lunar cues to reproduce. After living most of their
lives on the mountains, millions of adult crabs
migrate down to shore and then only during the
last quarter of the moon, females release their eggs into the sea. Now, the moon may not hold as much sway over human reproduction, but without it, something we care equally about
would change, the weather. (thunder rolling) Tides and tidal currents
help mix cold, Arctic waters with warmer waters in the tropics. This balances temperatures and stabilizes the climate worldwide. Without the moon, weather forecasts would
be practically impossible. The average difference between the hottest and coldest places on Earth could grow to life-threatening extremes, but none of this compares
to the biggest change that we would have coming
over the next millennium. Right now, Earth tilts on
an axis at 23.5 degrees, mostly due to moon’s gravity. If the moon disappeared,
Earth’s axis would wobble between anywhere from 10 to 45 degrees. Some experts estimate that Jupiter could help keep Earth’s tilt from reeling completely out of control, but even just an extra
10-degree tilt could wreak havoc on the climate and seasons. In the past, Earth’s tilt has changed by about one to two degrees, which scientists think
could have caused Ice Ages in the past. It’s hard to know what a 10 degree or 45 degree tilt would do, but probably nothing good
for most life on Earth. The moon isn’t just imperative
for life on Earth today, experts believe that it might
have also played a key role in the formation of life more
than 3.5 billion years ago. Turns out, the moon isn’t
just a beacon of light in the night sky. Its existence is crucial to
the delicate balancing act that makes life here possible. (soft instrumental music)

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