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Name: C. Gerald
Status: educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Monday, June 17, 2002


Question:
As our solar system evolves, and the earth revolves, what is the current scientific thinking on the future of each? Most importantly, is the earth "moving" closer to or further from the sun?


Replies:
C. Gerald,

The earth is not doing either one. The earth is in an elliptical orbit with the sun at one focus. The earth will remain in this orbit until something extreme happens. It is true that the presence of other planets can cause slight variations, but nothing significant. So long as nothing the size of a moon or small planet strikes the earth, nothing important will happen. The earth's orbit is stable.

The great astronomical catastrophe that is most likely to destroy the earth's orbit will come from the sun. The sun will eventually become a "red giant", expanding far beyond the orbit of the earth. After this, I do not expect the earth will exist anymore.

One interesting site that talks about planetary creation and evolution is posted by NASA:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/stars_galaxies/features/solarsystem_origins.html

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Instructor
Illinois Central College



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