Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Rock 'N' Roll

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. "

On July 20, 1969 the Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed on the Moon in the first of six Apollo landings, and paved the way for astronaut Neil.A.Armstrong to become the first human being to set foot on the Moon. I don't doubt it. This post is not concerned with conspiracy theories about whether or not Man (Woman) has put his stamp on the Moon, and stuck a flag in it. I'm more interested in an elaborate lie that we all tell ourselves, seemingly unaware of a simple truth that is staring us in the face.

"Earthrise" ~ Earth as viewed from the Moon during the Apollo 8 mission, Christmas Eve, 1968 (NASA)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_8)

If the Earth did not rotate, a whole day would thereby last an entire year. The Earth would travel around the Sun in a fixed position, and it would take a year before the entire surface of the Earth had, at some stage, recieved sunlight. Therefore, a day would not be completed until the Earth had finished its orbit of 360 degrees around the Sun.

We could elaborate on this scenario still further, and try to imagine the Earth rotating around the Sun in what is known as a tidally-locked orbit. A tidally-locked body takes just as long to rotate around its own axis as it does to revolve around its partner. The Moon is tidally-locked to the Earth, meaning that it always points the same face towards the Earth. If the Earth was tidally-locked to the Sun, then a day, as it is classically known, would simply not exist. It would mean that the same side of the planet was continously scorched by the Sun, year-in, year-out, while the other-side, the dark-side, would recieve no Sun at all.

The far-side of the Moon, the side that we don't normally see, is sometimes inaccurately called the dark-side, when in-fact, it recieves about the same amount of sunlight as the near-side. Maybe it was called the dark-side because it has always, at least in terms of human observation, faced the blackness of space. The far side of the Moon had managed to elude mankind for thousands of years, and was seen only for the first time after being photographed by the Soviet Luna 3 probe in 1959.

Apollo 16 metric camera image of the Moon's eastern limb and far side. The lower left part of the image shows a portion of the Moon visible from Earth. The dark area at the 8:00 position on the edge is Mare Crisium. To the right of that is Mare Smythii. The upper right area shows the heavily cratered lunar far side. The Moon is 3475 km in diameter and North is at 10:30 in this image. (Apollo 16, AS16-3021)

If we think about our own personal relationship with the Moon, and how over the years, we have watched it wax and wane with every passing month - just how many of us fully appreciate that it is always the same side of the Moon which faces us? We have become so used to observing the Moon throughout our lives, that it has evolved into being nothing more than part of the furniture making up the night sky. The Moon is so familiar to us, as familiar perhaps as the face in the mirror, that we seldom remember to doubt its presence. On one particular site, I found the question raised by the author has since passed onto me, in much the same way that someone might hand-over a relay baton:

"I've always wondered why the Moon's rotation matches that of its revolution around the Earth. Hard to believe it's coincidence. Is there something keeping this synchronization? Why do we always see only one side of the Moon?"

It's really quite remarkable, isn't it? The Moon's rotation period is precisely equal to its period of revolution about the Earth - 27.3 days. If the Moon did not rotate at all, then we would not see the same side always facing us, and we would eventually get to see all sides of the Moon as it completes one revolution. But it just so happens that the Moon's rotation period is precisely equal to its period of revolution around the Earth, so the same side is always facing us.

The Moon moves with variable velocity around its elliptical orbit, while its own rotation is constant. The orbit speeds up as the Moon nears perigee each month, and then slows down again as it passes apogee. At perigee, when the Moon is closest to Earth, that distance is 225,740 miles (363,300 km), while at apogee, the furthest position, the distance is 251,970 miles (405,500 km). Sometimes the rotation leads the revolution by a bit, and sometimes it lags a bit, and so the Moon appears to wobble by a few degrees in the sky in a phenomenon knowns as "libration".

What is it that sets apart the rotation of the Earth, compared to that of the Moon? The Earth is rotating a lot faster than the Moon. The speed at which the Moon rotates when measured at the lunar equator is around 10.3 mph (16.7 km/h). That's very slow when compared to the speed experienced at Earth's equator - 1038 mph (1669 km/h). The Moon takes 27.3 days to make one rotation, while the Earth, having a diameter that is nearly four times greater, manages to perform one rotation in only twenty-four hours. I wonder why we have such a vast difference between the rotational speeds experienced by the Earth in relation to the Moon? What is it that makes the Earth rotate faster?

Current theory dictates that the Earth's rotation is due to forces played out when the Earth was first formed 4.6 billion years ago. Apparently, the Earth was slapped in a collision with a planet-sized rock that has sent us reeling ever since. The Earth's mass allows it to conserve, or store, the energy that came from its' collision, and with no forces in space to resist the rotation, it thereby allows the Earth to spin indefinitely.

I've always hoped to find the Earth being pushed round by Atlas (I've always pictured him a bit like one of those blokes who spins the cars on fairground Waltzers' - you know, the one's that grab the car, and persist until you are sick,) and so it's a little disappointing to discover that he's not there. Indeed, space is no longer considered the hang-out of ancient gods, or even the hang out of anything in particular, because all you get in space is "nothing" - nothing but cold, empty, vacuous void. However, not everyone agrees with current theory.

I'm investigating a theory put forward by reclusive genius Edward Leedskalnin (who is sadly no longer with us) which implies that the Earth's rotation is not driven by an age old collision that took place billions of years ago. On the contrary, Leedskalnin believes that the Earth spins on its axis because of an unrelenting, continuous collision which began when the planet was first formed, and is consequently, taking place right now. The revelation of Leedskalnin's theory is that it is energy from the Sun which is responsible for driving the Earth's rotation.

~~Continued in Part II~~ "The Way"