Most of us, it’s safe to say, rarely think about the Moon. Sure, we notice it when it’s full because it gives us light to see by when we go outside in the evening, but other than that we just take the Moon for granted. It’s always been there, so we just expect it always will be.
But what if that suddenly changed? What would a sudden disappearance of our Moon mean for us here on Earth?
Granted, the most influential celestial body in our solar system is the Sun, which gives us heat and light. Without it, temperatures on Earth would hover around absolute zero, much too cold for life.
But as Ancient Origins explains, the Moon is also essential to life on Earth:
“The Moon plays a tremendously important role in mediating conditions on Earth as well. The Moon is not simply a spectator dragged along by our gravitational pull, but an active participant in Earth’s geological and biological development.
“Without the Moon, occupying its current position and orbit, life may never have appeared on the Earth billions of years ago.”
Yes, the Moon played an essential role in human evolution, even though most of us don’t realize it.
The Moon and Evolution
If the Moon didn’t help determine the tilt of the Earth’s axis, there’s a very real possibility that evolution might not have occurred or taken a very different path:
“In 1993, Jacques Laskar, the director of the French National Center for Scientific Research, performed a careful analysis of the Moon’s effect on the tilt of the Earth’s axis . At present the Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees either toward or away from the Sun, depending on where the planet is located during its 365-day revolution around the solar plane. Laskar determined that without a large satellite, our tilt would become more unstable over time, which could radically change climate conditions on the planet. This would have made evolution problematic, or at least caused it to unfold differently.”
Time and Tides
One of the most important roles the Moon plays is how it influences the tides. Tides were essential to the first appearance of life on Earth:
“Coastal areas saw massive cyclical changes in salinity that may have enabled the formation and evolution of self-replicating molecules, which eventually created life as we know it.”
While the sun also plays a role in the movement of the tides, fully two-thirds of the tidal effect is caused by the Moon. And tides also help control the Earth’s climate in a very real way:
“The vigorous tides we currently experience help regulate ocean currents that distribute cold and heated water across the globe. Their mixing effect helps even out extremes and keeps the world’s climate more in balance between the latitudes.”
Our Moon may not get the attention or praise it deserves from any of us, but without it, there’s a very real chance that none of us would be able to survive. While the Moon might be considered somewhat of a red-headed stepchild to the Earth it revolves around, we depend on it more than we can possibly imagine.
What would happen if the moon disappeared? This video examines that very question:
Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons