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The moon plays an important role in the functioning of the Solar System. It is well-known for its contribution towards the oceanic tides and gravity. Scientific bodies (astronomers, scientists, hydrologists, and geologists) have carried out a variety of studies to explore its importance in society. In order to find out what life would be like with no moon, it is important to understand the main concepts of the moon. This essay scrutinizes the moon’s influence on; the water cycle, oceanic tides, gravity, and biodiversity. The essay summaries what life would be like if there was no moon and how the Earth would be different if the moon had never formed.
Looking at the development of the moon and the formation of the Earth, scientific bodies will be able to carry out their investigation as to what the Earth would be like if there was no moon.
There are many theories on how the moon formed. The most common and backed-up theory is that of the Giant Impact Hypothesis. This theory suggests that during the formation of Earth, a protoplanet (named Theia) collided with Earth. The collision then broke off a segment of the Earth’s surface. The impact was so powerful that the protoplanet disintegrated with a part of the Earth’s mantle. The section that was broken off was made up of dust particles, gas, and debris which then formed a circle around the now-molten Earth. Due to the atmospheric environment and gravity, the segment was formed into a spherical form which is known as the moon. (Marshak, 2015, p. 30)
According to theorists, like Daniel Herwartz, the moon was formed when a section of the Earth was hit during its creation which allows scientific bodies to gather hypothesis’ about what Earth would be like if there was no moon. Going back 13.7 (+-%) billion years ago (p. 23), if the Earth was never hit by the protoplanet, the Earth itself would have a larger mass. A different mass would mean a different gravitational pull which would have a devastating impact on many aspects of the Earth; suitability of the atmosphere (Byrd, D, 2011) as well as the orbit (Jorgensen, 2018). Having a larger mass would, therefore, suggest that Earth would have had a stronger gravitational pull which would have huge impacts on the development of Earth. Some scientific bodies argue that without this collision the Earth would not have an atmosphere which could sustain life.
A stronger gravitational pull could affect the mass on Earth as the gravity levels would be twice as strong which would mean living organisms on Earth would struggle to walk as their weight would be significantly higher. (NASA, 2017) This, therefore, highlights just how dependent life on Earth is on the moon. Without it, organisms would need to evolve so that they had stronger bodies to allow them to move without causing any pain. Not only would the extra weight apply for organisms such as humans, but it would also apply for plants. Redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth (Howell, 2013), meaning they are closet to the atmosphere, and if they had extra weight then it is suggested that they would be unable to support themselves and would be knocked over. If they were to grow again, it is proposed that they would not be as tall due to the additional weight.
Furthermore, if the Earth had a larger volume, it would also have a hotter core as there would be more unstable elements in the crust of the Earth that could lead to more volcanoes (Noggin, 2015) This, therefore, suggests that the moon is crucial in the regulating of the temperatures on Earth as, without the moon, the core of the Earth would have a larger volume of radioactive materials meaning an increase in unstable nuclei which only decays to become stable by giving off radiation some of which gets converted to heat. (Ball, 2005)
Additionally, scientific bodies are aware of the oceanic tides that the moon contributes to. If there was no moon, what would become of these tides? Granted, we would still have the oceanic tides due to the Sun’s gravitational pull, but the tides would be weaker in strength, smaller in size and would result in fewer currents which are essential for biodiversity. Taking a closer look at the currents, specifically the global conveyor belt, one can determine what would be of ecosystems if the moon had never formed to aid the currents. The global conveyor belt is deep-circulation currents that are constantly moving water across the globe thus helping organisms access the resources they need to survive. (Ocean, 2017) One resource they require for survival is heat – and the ocean absorbs heat quicker than ice or land surfaces. (Bœuf, 2016) The currents mix the ocean meaning they are responsible for moving heat to cooler areas on Earth so that organisms are able to control the body temperatures that they need in order to survive.
As well as controlling tides and currents, the moon is also accountable for causing moisture to rise thus highlighting that without the moon, the hydrosphere would also be impacted. The hydrosphere is linked with the water cycle which consists of three key components; evaporation (heat causes moisture on the surface of water to rise), condensation (change in temperature which causes gas particles to change into a liquid state) and precipitation (weather, such as rain and snow, which falls to the ground (National Geographic). As shown in figure 1.1, all aspects of the water cycle are interlinked thus meaning if one aspect were to change, it would have an effect on the other two. The moon is believed to impact evaporation more than condensation and precipitation. This is because heat from the sun, reflects off the moon during nightfall and that heat causes the moisture from water to rise. Without the moon, less evaporation would take place resulting in extreme flooding as the water would not be evenly distributed. This could have drastic effects on the environment, and biodiversity as animals may have a restricted access to food and shelter. Some animal lifeforms may not be able to continue due to this.
Life on Earth would also be affected if there was no moon. Without the moon, there would be shorter days. One effect of the moon on Earth is as follows: Earth is spun on its axis due to the gravitational pull between the sun and the moon which helps slow the Earth down. Without this, only the sun would be there to help control the speed of the Earth, but the attempt would not be as effective as theoretically, it would only pull it from one side. Therefore, it is possible that the Earth would spin at a much greater speed and would, therefore, pass the sun quicker which results in shorter days. (EarthSky, 2017) Having shorter days would result in a decrease in temperature as there would be less time for the sun to warm the Earth (PlanetFacts, 2015). Colder temperatures would have major implications on the ecosystems on Earth as organisms would need to adapt to the changes or risk extinction as if they are unable to regulate their body temperatures to fit the environment, their organs would start to shut off and over time, the entire population would cease to live.
Moreover, with the higher temperatures, there would be a drastic impact on the food production chain. Higher temperatures would not only impact the water cycle as discussed earlier in this essay, but it would also impact the food production chain and the factors within it. Food production is vital for the sustainability of life which is required for all living organisms. The increased temperatures cause the moisture in the soil to evaporate leaving the soil too dry for the plants to live off as they require water to aid the growth and repair as well as photosynthesis. Additionally, if the soil is too dry, the nutrients and minerals in the soil would be reduced and would, therefore, struggle to support the plants. One nutrient that plays a key role in the food production chain is nitrate as, without it, soil microbe activity would be lowered. Low microbe activity would result in the organic matter not being broken down, therefore, limiting the nutrients accessing the soil. (Prieur, 2016)
In conclusion, the evidence presented suggests that the moon plays a vitally important role on Earth. Not only does the moon help regulate our water systems and food production cycles, but it also ensures that the Earth is suitable for living organisms to live on. The research also demonstrates that the Earth’s structure and volume would be completely different if the moon had never formed. Due to this, it is clear that the moon is essential to help balance radiation levels. Overall, life on Earth would not be the way it is today if it was not for the presence of the moon in the solar system as scientific bodies have highlighted that the moon has underlying connections to all aspects on Earth.
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- Marshak, S. (2015). Earth: Portrait of a Planet, New York, London: W. W. Norton& Company
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- Bœuf, G. (2016). Ocean, Biodiversity and Climate. Available from: http://www.ocean-climate.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ocean-biodiversity-climate_Oct2016_BD_ppp-5.pdf (Accessed: 11 October 2018)
- National Geographic. The Water Cycle! Available from: https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/science/nature/water-cycle/ (Accessed: 11 October 2018)
- EarthSky. (2017). What would Earth be like with no moon? Available from: http://earthsky.org/earth/moonless-earth (Accessed: 11 October 2018)
- PlanetFacts. (2015). Why is the Moon Important? Available from: http://planetfacts.org/why-is-the-moon-important/ (Accessed 11 October 2018)
- Prieur, C. (2016). Dry soil conditions impact on nutrient availability. Available from: https://onfruit.wordpress.com/2016/07/25/dry-soil-conditions-impact-on-nutrient-availability (Accessed 11 October 2018)
Date accessed: 09/10/18
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