This is what would happen if the Earth stopped rotating around the Sun

Since we were little, we've learned that the Earth rotates on itself (in days) and around the Sun (in years). But what would happen if it stopped?

earth orbit sun theory
© aryos / Getty Images
earth orbit sun theory

There are certain questions we ask ourselves that we immediately regret asking. And yet, we can't stop thinking about them until we have the answer. A case in point? What would happen if the Earth stopped revolving around the Sun? Would it plunge into an endless journey to the farthest reaches of the galaxy? What would happen to life on Earth as we know it?

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A subtle balance

Seen from a satellite image, the Earth appears to be 'magically' suspended in space. But any astronomy buff knows that what keeps our planet in space in this way is due to a perfect balance between the gravitational force exerted on it by the Sun and the Earth's inertia, its own orbital motion. One of Newton's famous theories. It's not magic, it's simply physics. In short, the Earth and Sun seem to be dancing a tango, where forces attract and repel each other in perpetual motion.

Read more:What would happen if we fell into a black hole?

Can external forces disrupt this balance?

For the subtle Earth-Sun balance to be altered, a change would have to occur. The Sun, for example, could lose its gravitational force. But for this to be possible, it would have to lose mass; the attraction an object exerts being closely linked to its mass.

Scientists have already studied this future mass reduction. It's not expected until the Sun becomes a red giant, the process that initiates the death of a star. And the death of our beloved star is not expected for another 5 billion years. So let's not dwell on that for now.

An asteroid? Could an asteroid be powerful enough to alter the Earth's orbital speed? The experts' answer is pretty explicit:

An object big enough to alter the Earth's orbit is also big enough to destroy it completely!

In other words, we wouldn't have time to witness the Earth's long drift towards the Sun.

Read more:NASA reveals the Earth and the Moon are drifting apart, here's what it means for humans

An exceptional case

Okay, we can see where you're coming from; despite all the scientific answers, you're thinking that, despite everything, it's likely, 'as if by chance', that a sufficiently large celestial body could modify the Earth's inertia, but without destroying the planet. Just imagine. Scientists familiar with our non-scientific way of thinking have had fun imagining this improbable hypothesis. The answer is clear. We'd have barely a month to survive. With the Earth inexorably drawn towards the Sun, temperatures would rise ever faster, taking all traces of life with them.

Read more:Huge 'planet-killing' asteroid could endanger Earth

This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used: Earth's orbit around the sun

Isaac Newton's theories

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Earth's inner core has stopped rotating, this is what could happen Earth's inner core has stopped rotating, this is what could happen