This is a very good question. We’re all aware from our 3rd Grade science lessons that the Earth spins.
But does that mean all planets spin? Surprisingly, yes.
There are different theories behind why, but everyone can agree that a planet needs to spin in order to stay in place.
Think of it like spinning a basketball on your finger. When it’s spinning, it stays on your finger. But the second it stops spinning, it falls.
Try it, and you’ll see what we’re talking about. It’s that spinning motion that keeps the ball in place.
Just like with the ball, the planets need to spin in place to stay where they are. Or else they’ll drop.
And so far, we know that space is endless. So if a planet were to stop spinning it would just keep falling into nothing.
Or worse, it would crash into another planet that could potentially disrupt the delicate balance of the universe and destroy life as we know it.
So let’s hope they all keep spinning like a basketball on Lebron James’ pinkie.
Have you ever wondered why planets spin around their axis at such high speeds? What makes them move?
Is it because they’re spinning too fast or too slow? The rotation of a planet is called its angular velocity.
This is measured in radians per second (rad/sec). The answer lies in Newton’s laws of motion.
These laws state that every object has inertia and always tries to stay in motion unless acted upon by another force.
In other words, objects continue moving until something stops them.
Why Do Planets Rotate?
In order to understand how a planet rotates, we first need to understand how it forms.
When planets form out of the dust left over after the formation of stars, they have no substantial mass yet.
During the process of planetary formation, much of the remaining dust coalesces into solid bodies which have less empty space than the original cloud of gas and dust.
Thus, gravity pulls more strongly on these bodies than on the surrounding gaseous material.
As a result, they begin to spiral toward the new body known as the star that formed at the center of the nebula.
They reach a radius equal to the radius of the parent star, leaving behind a gap of material between the two masses.
From inside this gap, matter piles up to increase the overall gravitational attraction of each individual particle compared to that of the parent star.
Once enough mass accumulates, the pressure becomes sufficient for the particles to become self-gravitating.
The outer layers then collapse under the weight of the accumulated mass.
As the object continues to contract, the temperature increases, eventually resulting in the formation of a hot core.
Eventually, a rocky sphere can be formed, which will now experience rapid cooling.
At some point, a region of the young planet has cooled sufficiently that its molecules can combine and take on permanent shapes as opposed to being randomly distributed in a liquid or gaseous state.
A crust is eventually formed, containing mostly water, ice and organic materials.
Finally, an atmosphere develops, enriched with volatile gases such as hydrogen, helium, methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur compounds. And that’s how a planet forms.
It’s the rotation and the spinning of the planet in the first place that helped it to form.
From the very beginning, a planet starts spinning and doesn’t stop until it dies.
Although scientists don’t exactly know why it does so, they believe that it’s a natural process driven by a planet’s internal heat.
After all, how else could planets gain energy unless they spun?
Scientists suspect that as soon as the planet gets large enough to hold its own magnetic field, the sun’s magnetic field begins to interact with the planet’s magnetic field.
This causes them to spin together like our Milky Way Solar System orbits and spins around our Sun.
What may be happening is a sort of dance that allows the sun and the earth to remain close together without too many problems of getting burned.
What Causes The Earth To Spin?
From our perspective on Earth, we see the Sun as the source of all energy for the Earth.
We call this source the solar system’s central star. Our planet rotates about the sun once every 24 hours. This is called an equatorial orbit.
From the side, however, things are different.
For example, if you were here during nighttime when the Sun was very low on the horizon, you would think that this “sunlight” was coming from the opposite direction.
In reality, there isn’t any sunlight entering our atmosphere from the opposite direction.
Instead, these rays of light from the Sun are bending around us, causing what appears to be the Sun rising.
The same thing happens with the Moon; you cannot actually see the moon rise when looking towards it.
It seems to be rising due to reflection off the surface of the oceans. The Earth, therefore, rotates and spins to stay in place.
But there’s also the added bonus of creating seasons and tides from the moon.
Because the earth’s surface is tilted 23 degrees away from the plane of the solar system, the north pole points directly away from the sun while the south pole faces towards it.
This causes the Northern Hemisphere to receive more direct solar radiation, resulting in the northern continents warming faster than those in the Southern Hemispheres.
However, because the poles never fully lose their winter/summer distinction, they continue to change polarity for thousands of years.
If you had visited the world prior to humans ever discovering it, you would’ve seen that the landmasses didn’t even exist.
They were just clouds of rotating material swirling down to form the proto-planetary disc.
There wasn’t a central object like the sun but rather a vast cloud of dust.
Some astronomers believe that this cloud of dust is still intact and orbiting around the black hole at the center of our galaxy.
Scientists have been trying to find evidence of this theory since the 1980s, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
The results of those attempts were inconclusive. A new discovery shows that our solar system originated as one giant planet, not several.
The researchers used data from ALMA, which stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array.
With this instrument, scientists can observe extremely small amounts of cosmic energy — in this case, radio waves that are emitted from distant stars.
There’s still a long way to go with this theory, but it’s an interesting start.
So there you have it, folks. All planets spin, and they spin because they need to stay in place. Remember the basketball analogy?
So far, we haven’t observed a single planet that doesn’t spin.
But what we do know, and what we’re more sure of every day, is that if a planet were to ever stop spinning, then it could be catastrophic.
Luckily the worst is yet to come, so today is fine.
Plus, who knows, human technology could have advanced so far in the future that we’d be able to make planets spin again.
Alright, you got me; I was watching ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ last night.
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