The days are getting longer and the moon is to blame

If you can never find enough hours in the day, good news - soon there will soon be more.

Scientists have measured just what effect the moon has on the spinning of our planet, and their calculations show 1.4 billion years ago each day was only 18 hours long.

"As the moon moves away, the Earth is like a spinning figure skater who slows down as they stretch their arms out," study co-author Stephen Meyers said.

It might even be news to you that the moon is getting further away. At its current rate of departure, it moves about 3.8cm further away each year - which means that our distant descendants will enjoy the luxury of 25-, 30- or even 40-hour days, provided humanity survives that long.

While scientists have long known the moon is getting further away, something about the maths didn't add up - in particular the speed at which it's leaving.

"The moon would have been close enough (1.5 billion years ago) that its gravitational interactions with the Earth would have ripped the moon apart," said Prof Meyers.

Scientists around the world - including some in New Zealand - developed a new way of measuring the Earth's spin and the moon's distance throughout history, looking at rocks.

"The geologic record is an astronomical observatory for the early solar system. We are looking at its pulsing rhythm, preserved in the rock and the history of life."

The study was published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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