It’s elementary school knowledge that the Earth takes exactly 24 hours to rotate on its axis, but something has changed since at least as early as 2020. The acceleration of rotation can impact GPS satellites as well as on the planet’s communication systems.
Representative image. Nasa
Earth recorded the shortest day of its life on July 29 when it completed a full rotation in 1.59 milliseconds less than its standard 24-hour rotation.
According to a report from Independent, it nearly broke the barrier again this month, with July 26 being 1.50 milliseconds lower than 24 hours.
Why is the Earth spinning faster and what it could mean, let’s find out:
What happens with the rotation of the Earth?
It’s elementary school knowledge that the Earth takes exactly 24 hours to rotate on its axis, but something has changed since at least as early as 2020.
A report from Independent said the planet has been increasing its speed for some time now. In July 2020, Earth recorded its shortest month since the 1960s, when July 19 was 1.47 milliseconds shorter than a typical 24-hour day.
The following year, the Earth continued to spin at a generally increased speed but did not break any records.
Although no one has been able to pinpoint the reasons for this, scientists have speculated that a number of processes could be behind this increased rotation.
According to Independentthe reasons may be melting glaciers and climate change as a whole, movements of the planet’s molten inner core, seismic activity, and a phenomenon called the “Chandler Oscillation”.
The Chandler wobble is a small deviation from the Earth’s axis of rotation, much like the tremor you see when a spinning top picks up momentum or slows down.
How does this impact life?
The acceleration of rotation impacts various technologies on Earth, including GPS satellites that use atomic clocks.
According to a report by Forbes, a faster rotation would mean that the Earth would obtain the same position a little earlier than the day before. Half a millisecond equals 10 inches or 26 centimeters at the equator. In short, the GPS satellites – which must already be corrected for the effect of Einstein’s theory of general relativity (the curve of space and time) – will quickly become useless.
It can also impact smartphones, computers, and communications systems in general, which synchronize with Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers. It is defined as the number of seconds since 00:00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on January 1, 1970.
To solve all this, international timekeepers may need to add a negative leap second – a “falling second”.
According to IndependentUTC, the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, has been updated with a leap second 27 times.
With contributions from agencies
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