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What makes the earth spin?

What makes the earth spin?
Megan Cannell from Buckinghamshire (Aged 5-14)

How does the earth turn round?
Freddie Woollard from Suffolk (age 5-14)


One Response

  1. HI Young Scientist :).
    The main reason that our planet and the other planets, their moons and every other body in the solar system (including our star – The Sun) continue to rotate is because nothing is trying to stop them! If a ‘body’, from the most tiny to the most massive, is given a push that is big enough to start it moving i.e. to accelerate it from rest, then that body will continue to move (in the straight – line direction of that ‘force’) and at that speed for ever more or until it is pushed or pulled by another force. So if there is nothing for that body to knock into and nothing big enough and near enough to attract that body by gravitation – and nothing for it to rub on (creating friction) – then it will be free to continue as it is. We believe that this rule applies to every object, whatever it is made of (even balls of gas) in the whole universe!
    Now, when in an otherwise empty space, or ‘Outer Space’ as we call it, the structures can only influence each other by gravity – they hardly ever collide 🙂 – and the bigger / more hefty or ‘dense’ they are, the stronger is the gravitational attraction that they possess and hence their ability to dominate the outcome, a pattern appears. Thus our nearest super-massive structure, our star, the Sun, is at the centre of our ‘Solar System’ while the rest of us, smaller, lighter bodies, are orbiting it. We don’t get pulled in closer and closer because of our speeds (a bit like a conker twirled on a string -in this arrangement a lot of them on different length strings) and so our solar system is in a balanced state. Individually, the rate at which our structure spins i.e. the ‘rotational speed’ is maintained continuously. This ‘rate’ was acquired during the original formation of the solar system as the particles were drawn together by local gravitational effects to create the planets, their moons and all the other structures. A picture which represents this happening is of many skaters moving differently then all catching hold of another skater’s hand in pairs. Then all the pairs join up until everyone is held together. The final result would be that the whole group would rotate in the one direction which averaged out to become the ‘mode’. The fact that a sequence of events like this could describe the arrangement and the formation of each planet and group etc. perhaps justifies the belief in a common cause. The original angular (curved) direction of travel was created by the ‘Big Bang’ (and this time picture what happens when a spinning skater draws their arms in closer to their body), increased in rate of spin as the centre became more dense.
    There is a lot of information in this answer but I hope, taken a piece at a time, it will give an impression of why our solar system and in particular, our planet behaves as it does.
    Good luck,

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