Steadying influence of the Moon on the Earth

Steadying influence of the Moon on the Earth

Fig. 5.31 . The brightly colored, sunlit half of the Earth contrasts strongly with the darker, subdued colors of its Moon, which reflects only about one-third as much sunlight as our world. The Moon holds the Earth upright in space, stabilizing its orientation and keeping the planet from tilting over. Without the Moon's influence, chaotic forces could tip the Earth's rotation axis down so far that its poles are pointing at or away from the Sun, producing wild swings in the Earth's climate. This image of the Moon and Earth was taken from a distance of 6.2 billion meters, by the Galileo spacecraft on 16 December 1992, soon after swinging around the Earth on its way to Jupiter. (Courtesy of NASA/JPL.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University