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Surprising Science

What Would Happen If the Earth Stopped Its Orbit Around the Sun?

Here's a fun thought experiment: What would happen if Earth stopped spinning around the sun? Aatish Bhatia from Wired writes on the repercussions as we finish another revolution.

Here’s a fun thought experiment: What would happen if Earth were to stop spinning around the sun?

Aatish Bhatia from Wired writes on the repercussions as we cross the finish line into 2015, marking another lap around the sun. The short answer is nothing good.

Bhatia explains that in order to understand what will happen, it’s important to understand how orbit works. He says the earth is constantly falling into the sun and constantly missing. Isaac Newton may have explained it best: If you fire a cannon ball up into the sky with enough speed and force, the earth will have turned enough to have the ground curved away from it. The ground is constantly curving away as the cannon ball falls, meaning it’s now in perpetual free-fall (aka in orbit). But if the cannon ball were to suddenly stop, it would fall straight back to Earth. So, like the cannon ball, if the Earth were to stop its orbit around the sun it would crash into it. Bhatia claims the fall would take around 64 days, but he assures us that we’d all be dead before that happens. Until then, our journey toward the sun would be an uncomfortable ride.

It wouldn’t be until day 21 of our fall toward the sun that we’d begin to feel the rising temperatures. But it’s day 35 that the temperatures would spike to an unbearable 137 degrees Fahrenheit. Humans would be able to cool down in their air conditioned homes, but anyone caught outside would die from the heat. However, energy systems would be taxed, so it’s questionable if those would even hold-out. Crops, animals, and fish–anything left out in the elements–would be gone. Well, except for a few extraordinary types of bacteria and micro-organisms. 

On day 47, all life on Earth has become extinct (not even cockroaches are scurrying between the walls)—save for a tough little micro-animal know as the Tardigrades.

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By day 54, even the Tardigrades are dead, and nothing is left alive to see the final days of Earth crashing into the sun.

If you’re interested in all the nerdy details, like how Bhatia calculated this entire scenario (and what variables he left out), check out the full report on Wired.

Read more at Wired

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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