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Right now, the Earth’s only natural satellite – the Moon – is receding further and further away from the Earth at a rate of approximately 3.8 centimeters a year. However, scientists have suggested that this trend will change at some point in the future and the Earth and the Moon will begin to draw closer until they eventually collide.
While there is a great deal of argument about how the Moon came to be trapped in the orbit of the Earth, it is generally agreed that it was created by a coalescence of matter that was ejected after a huge asteroid collision with the Earth approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Since then, the Moon has been moving away from the Earth at a fairly steady rate owing to the effect of the Moon’s gravitational tides on the Earth.
However, according to Jason Barnes, a planetary scientist the University of Idaho, this pattern cannot continue indefinitely. He says that at some point, the Earth and the Moon will move into exactly the same orbit. This will result in the Moon inwardly spiraling and hurtling down to the Earth. This would result in a direct collision of the two bodies.
While this might sound very alarming, Barnes has stressed that it is highly unlikely that this event will take place for another 65 billion years – if it happens at all. By this point, the Sun will have concluded its Red Giant Phase which may well mean that the Earth and the Moon will have been destroyed in their entirety prior to entering their collision course trajectory.
If the Earth and the Moon manage to survive the Red Giant Phase, then they will both become covered with ice as the nuclear fuel of the Sun runs to nothing and it enters its cold white dwarf phase. Either way, it does not appear as though humanity will have to actually deal with the incredible fallout caused by the collision of the Earth and the Moon.
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