What Would Earth Be Like Without the Moon?
A world without the moon would have profound implications for our way of life. Many of these are not as apparent as they may seem, and certainly there are many more depending on the individual you are speaking to. Below are but a sampling of the repercussions and consequences of the disappearance of the moon.
Much of ancient folklore made use of the moon in parables and history. The moon was seen as a for-bearer of a good harvest or as a goddess of the hunt. It is still for some cultures to this day and continues to be an inspiration to others. With the moon missing, much of the mythos created by the moon would be lost. Novels and songs that make use of the moon would lose its meaning and slowly would disappear from reference.
Eclipses and Moonlight
Though it may seem like a trivial matter, without the Moon we would not have eclipses of any kind, including solar or lunar. For a solar eclipse to occur, the Moon must be between the Earth and the Sun so that the Moon's shadow falls on the Earth's surface. A lunar eclipse, on the other hand, happens when the Earth's shadow falls on the Moon's surface. Obviously, without a Moon to be in either of these positions, we cannot have eclipses.
But does that effect your daily life? Not at all. But what about moonlight? No matter what phase the Moon is in, it reflects sunlight and casts it down on us. Without this moonlight, it would be difficult for many species of animals to hunt, feed, or breed. Farmers also make use of the moonlight, taking advantage of the extra visibility it brings. It often serves as a navigation booster for those in airplanes and ships also.
For anyone living on the coastline, the tides are a constant rhythm of nature. They rise and fall because of the pull of gravity from the moon and from centripetal forces of the Earth. Because water is free to move on the Earth's surface, gravity can pull on it easier than it does on land. So as the Moon progresses around it's orbit, so too does a wall a water that rises as it hits land, then sinks back as the Moon sets and the gravity tug it exerts on us pulls away. The Sun too pulls on the water around the Earth, but not to the same degree as the Moon. Thus, without the Moon to draw water to it, we would lose the tides that the Moon brings. This would impact commercial vessels who rely on it and also life forms which require the tides to feed and breed. Nutrients from the coastline also get recycled courtesy of the tides and thus would be lost also.
Protection From Debris
If one looks at the Moon, they will see it is not a perfectly smooth object but has dark discolorations, craters, valleys, and other scars of it's violent past. These marks are a reminder of what a beating the Moon has taken for us. Thanks to having the satellite around us, Earth was able to have a good portion of space debris, such as asteroids and comets, miss it and instead collide with the Moon. Who knows how much devastation during our history we would have sustained without this guardian in the sky taking such a brunt of the forces space throws at us. At least once an impact with an asteroid caused a mass extinction. Who knows what other disasters we would have endured.
Our Place in The Solar System
Although the Moon does protect us from many objects in space, the formation of the Moon itself is believed to be an incredibly cataclysmic event. Over 4 billion years ago, the newly formed Earth was impacted by a planetesimal, or proto-planet, about the size of Mars. Much of the Earth was made molten again and a huge chunk of it blew off to eventually form the Moon. Even though many would say that it may have been better for us if such an event never happened, consider what the results were.
With this new object orbiting us, our gravitational pull the Sun exerts was changed, meaning that without the Moon in such proximity to us we may not be in the same place in our orbit. We could be further out than we are now, meaning colder temperatures, so liquid water may never have flowed on Earth. And without liquid water to flow, life is nearly impossible to exist. On the flip side, we could be closer to the Sun, meaning higher temperatures, and thus the possibility of water being boiled away. It all depends on how that object hit us so long ago.
Thank the Moon
Without the Moon, it becomes clear that our way of life changes drastically. If we were to suddenly lose it, the effects would take a long time to materialize, but it would be significant. Thankfully, nothing in the foreseeable future will be taking the Moon away from us, short of another planetesimal colliding with us. Thanks to the Moon we have a stabilized system that helped life get a foothold on Earth. We would most likely not be here without the Moon, so when you next look up at it, appreciate it for the life it has helped to give us.
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© 2013 Leonard Kelley