The spin of earth gives its 24-hour long day, with changing lighting, temperatures and colours of the sky. But, what would happen if our blue planet suddenly stopped spinning?
“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,” says senior geologist James Zimbelman, who works at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington, while talking to Stacy Kish, a science communicator at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.
However, if we were to consider it just a thought experiment, Kish writes about her interaction with Zimbelman in a piece published in Live Science, the angular momentum of the earth would rip the planet’s surface apart. The linear momentum of a body moving in a straight line is the amount of force required to bring it to rest in a given amount of time. Similarly, angular momentum is the amount of force one would need to stop a body from spinning. Or in other words, angular momentum is the amount of force a body will exert against you if you try to stop it from spinning.
Considering the earth’s spin, from the point of view of the poles, equators are moving at a speed of about 492 metres per second around the earth’s axis.
If the earth stops spinning out of the blue, your angular momentum will throw you in the sky — a direction tangential to the earth — with a speed of about 400 metres per second if you are in New Delhi. It will not be just you. The surface of the earth will rip apart, setting free mountains, water and all the stuff that could move with that much amount of momentum. Most objects thrown in the sky would return — because of the earth’s gravitational pull — after interacting with the atmosphere and a constant bombardment of such pieces will liquefy the earth’s crust into a molten ocean of rock. It will also rapidly vaporise most of the water on the planet. According to Zimbelman, Some objects could be pulled by the moon and hence bombard the satellite.