On a daily basis, we do not realize that the Moon is essential to us. If it suddenly disappeared from the sky, the consequences would be first embarrassing for humanity, then dramatic.
The Moon is so familiar, and yet we never tire of observing it or exploring it. Earth’s natural satellite is the brightest star in our night sky. If the Moon suddenly disappeared, we would probably miss its brightness. But, the problem would be much more worrying, because the Moon is crucial for our planet, and therefore for humanity.
At first, we might not miss the Moon so much
“If the Moon suddenly disappeared, like in a science fiction movie, our nights would not only be darker, our world would be radically changed — even if at first it would be hard to see the difference,” according to the Institute of Physics. This association promotes physics in the United Kingdom. Just after the Moon disappears, the consequences would be minimal.
However, we would quickly realize the essential role of the Moon in our daily lives. We would not only be deprived of lunar eclipses. Certainly, the night sky would be darker without it, it would make telescope observations easier. The Moon is extremely bright, 14,000 times brighter than Venus. It, therefore, happens that it interferes with observations, for example, during swarms of shooting stars. Without the Moon, we would have very dark skies all year round.
But the damage to wildlife would quickly be felt, especially in oceanic environments. Coral and crabs would be disturbed by the absence of the Moon, as they usually manage to perceive its luminosity during some of its phases. It is thanks to this light returned by the Moon that they begin their reproduction in particular. Without the moonlight, we don’t know how they would do.
Without the Moon, what would happen to the tides?
Still, at the ocean level, the absence of the Moon would directly influence the phenomenon of the tides. They would become much weaker. The tides would not completely disappear, because the Sun also plays a role in this phenomenon (less important than that of the Moon, however). Tides, as they exist today, are essential for many species. Some fish lay their eggs in the sand and manage to hatch to coincide with the tides. This whole ingenious system would no longer make sense without the tides.
The absence of tides would not only prevent humans from surfing (rising tides contribute to the formation of breaking waves, pushing water further towards the beach). It would also be compromising for fishing, some of the animals caught move according to the movements of the tides.
The Moon is really essential to us. Source: Canva
The immediate effects of the Moon’s disappearance would be damaging, but not insurmountable. However, the most serious effects are yet to come. They would show up much later. The habitability of the Earth would be at stake.
In the long term, the Earth would be upside down without the Moon
The loss of the Moon would eventually destabilize the rotation of our planet. You should know that the Earth’s axis of rotation is inclined, by 23.4°, with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. But, in addition, this axis of rotation experiences an oscillation (weak, barely 2.4°). It’s a bit like a spinning top. This oscillation in the Earth’s rotation cycle is extremely slow, with a rhythm spread over 26,000 years. But, if the Moon were no longer there, this oscillation would no longer be stabilized. It would take on extreme proportions.
Result: the seasons would no longer exist, and day and night would have a fixed length throughout the year. Worse still, the Earth could sometimes tip completely on its side, much like Uranus which is very tilted in its orbit around the Sun. It would be hot at the poles and cold at the equator.
It is therefore very good news to know that the Moon is not about to disappear. Admittedly, we know that the satellite moves away from the Earth by a little less than 4 cm each year. However, she will probably never leave us. It is estimated that the Moon would stop moving away from Earth in about 15 billion years, at the current rate. Except that the Sun should engulf the innermost planets of the solar system long before, in approximately 6 to 7 billion years.
Good news: the Moon should therefore not escape from the Earth. Our planet will be charred anyway before that can happen. Great.