It has been believed for a long time that the moon is needed to maintain life here on Earth, but a new study suggests otherwise. New simulations show that the tilt of our planet's axis would only vary about 10 degrees if we did not have a satellite.
A study released last week theorized that the Earth had two moons. Researchers suggested that our planet’s early moon was shadowed by a smaller satellite, but as the moons evolved and were affected by the sun’s gravitational force, the two satellites eventually collided and merged into one.
Now a moonless Earth? A new study, using computational models, is suggesting our planet could still develop life if we did not have an accompanying satellite, according to a published study conducted by researchers at the University of Idaho.
“The stabilizing effect that our large moon has on Earth's rotation may not be as crucial for life as previously believed,” said John Barnes, lead researcher, in the report published in the Astrobiology magazine.
It was originally concluded that without our moon, the Earth’s axis would tilt from zero degrees to 85 degrees and the sun would shine directly above one of our poles, which would cause fluctuations in climate.
However, researchers simulated what it would be like without a moon and the obliquity would vary only approximately 10 degrees.
Our planet’s rotational tilt varies every 100,000 years by between 0.5 and one degree.
“It's a very intriguing result. It's provocative," said lead scientist at NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, Richard Vondrak, in an interview with Discovery News. “On the moon we can find important evidence and clues of what happened to not only to the moon, but also to the Earth-moon system over the last 4.5 billion years.”
The study further showed that if Earth revolved around the sun in the opposite direction – retrograde orbit – then we wouldn’t need a moon at all and we would have a climate as stable as it is today.
“We think that at least 80 or 90 percent of planets out there statistically won't even require a moon,” added Barnes.
This is groundbreaking research because this will now force scientists to rethink their observations when investigating life on other planets.