By Peter Becker
Posted Mar 05, 2010 @ 06:03 PM
According to a NASA scientist, the Chilean earthquake has moved the Earth’s axis and shortened our day.
A minute change may have occurred. Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., suggest that the Feb. 27 earthquake shortened the length of a day by about 1.26 microseconds. Consider that! We complain that there are not enough days in a week, and now each day may have been speeded up!
Our axis also may have been realigned by the movement of the Earth beneath - by about 3 inches.
There’s no cause for hysteria, but imagine the supermarket tabloid headlines:
GETTING DIZZY YET? EARTH SPIN SPEEDS UP
BETELGEUSE BECOMES NEW NORTH STAR; POLARIS FILES SUIT
HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT: WORLD ON A WHIRL
PENGUINS IN PANAMA; GATORS IN GREENLAND
Note that a microsecond is one-millionth of a second. It remains a wonderful feat of technology that we can measure that short of time.
Scientists also note that it is not the North-South axis that may have shifted, the one around which the world rotates and points to the northern sky immediately next to Polaris, what we know as the North Star. What may have been bumped is the “Earth's figure axis,” about which the planet’s mass is balanced. This axis and the North-South axis are offset by approximately 33 feet. In other words. Polaris didn’t lose any of its coveted star status.
It must also be noted that other earthquakes may have adjusted the rotation and axis as well, and may be a normal occurrence.
JPL scientist Richard Gross reported that the same computer model was used to estimate the magnitude 9.1 Sumatran earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004 that set off the giant tsunami.
While the recent Chilean earthquake was of lesser magnitude, it had more of an impact on the Earth because it was located in the mid-latitudes, not close to the equator. The fault that caused the quake in Chile dips into our planet at a steeper angle. Gross said that this would make the Chilean quake more able to budge the planet’s mass and axis. Gross stated that the data is still preliminary and under study.
Quakes on the “Third Rock from the Sun” seem to be on an increase, considering huge quakes in Chile and Taiwan, and another major aftershock in Haiti, all in the past week.
The universe, from a distance, appears so calm, with the glittering stars faithfully shining night after night, the constellations very much the same. They can give us a measure of comfort, but in reality the whole cosmos is forever on the move, and far from stable. Our sun is a constantly churning and boiling. Some stars (not the sun’s type, as far as we know) explode. Black holes form and whole stars are sucked right in. Asteroids strike and comets have landed. The vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter may have come from a planet that broke up.
The good news is that we can have a right, stable frame of mind and heart, and although our world around us may rock and roll, we need not be moved!
Last-quarter moon is on March 7. Anyone remember what happened in the daytime sky 30 years ago on March 7?
Write to Peter Becker at pbecker@wayneindependent.com.
Keep looking up!

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