Earth rotates steadily and takes 23 hours 56 minutes and 4.09 seconds to fully rotate around its axis, and the maximum rotation speed at the equator is 1770 km / h, while it is almost non-existent at the poles. But have you ever thought about what would happen if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning?
In a report published on Live Science on July 24, James Zimbelman, chief geologist emeritus at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, described the idea of the Earth suddenly stopping rotation as “just a thought experiment.”
Zimbelman added “There is no natural force that would stop the Earth from spinning. That is part of why the planet has been spinning since it formed, which is pretty impressive.”
Objects rotate around themselves due to the law of conservation of rotational momentum, or the so-called angular momentum.
It is known that the force of gravity affects the mass of the Earth equally from all directions, which gives the Earth its round shape and creates a moment of inertia that causes the Earth to rotate around itself.
Thus, it can be said that the Earth rotates on its axis since its inception. The rotation of Earth around itself is affected by the gravitational force generated by the Moon, which causes the Earth’s rotational speed to slow down by 1 mm/sec annually.
tearing up the earth’s surface
Zimbelman believes that the sudden stopping of the Earth does not mean the lack of angular momentum at the equator, as this angular momentum transmitted to air, water and even rocks along the equator will continue to move at this speed of 1770 km / h.
This movement leads to tearing the Earth’s surface into fragments that, in turn, fly to the upper layers of the atmosphere and then scatter to outer space.
Regroup, reform, accrete
According to Zimbelman, the bits and pieces that broke away from the surface would regain some spin as Earth and its remnants continued on their path around the sun. Eventually, the planet’s gravitational pull would draw the halo of fragments back with an unexpected effect.
“What [Isaac] Newton helped us figure out with classical mechanics is that the pieces accumulating and moving closer together would release some of their own energy, heating things up,” Zimbelman said.
Think of it like a meteorite streaking across the sky. The remnants that ended up in the far reaches of the atmosphere and outer space would be drawn to the surface by the planet’s gravitational pull, and they would release energy upon impact. The constant bombardment of these bits and pieces would liquefy the crust into a molten “ocean of rock,” Zimbelman said. Eventually, colliding fragments would be reabsorbed into the molten sea through a process called accretion.
According to Zimbelman, the rapid and destructive transition would also vaporize most of the water on the planet’s surface. While most of this vaporized water would be lost, some might be incorporated into newly solidified minerals, like olivine. Finally, not all of the fragments would be reabsorbed through accretion. Some of the planetary bits would be swept up by the moon’s gravitational pull, bombarding the nearby satellite and creating countless more craters across its surface.