The Earth's Constant Drift

by Anonymous

(This is a contribution from a reader. The webmaster's answer is at the bottom of the page.)

The Earth is moving very, very slowly away from the Sun. This happens for two reasons. The first is that the Sun is constantly losing mass because of the solar wind. As the mass of the Sun decreases its pull on the Earth decreases and so the Earth moves slightly further away. The second reason is to do with tidal forces. In exactly the same way that the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth, the Earth is very slowly moving away from the Sun. In the Earth-Moon case the Moon pulls on the Earth creating tides and slowing the Earth's rotation very slightly, making the day longer. This action has a reaction - the Moon's orbit is speeded up. If something travels faster it must move outwards to remain in an orbit and so the Moon slowly drifts away from us at a rate of 3.8 centimetres per year. The same situation happens with the Sun but the Earth's influence on the Sun is much smaller than the Moon's influence on the Earth. The result is the Earth's tiny, tiny drift away from the Sun.

Now imagine if the earth were as old as some people believe it is. The earth could not survive because of how close it would to the sun. Over a time period of thousands of years this small drift has not made that big of a distance. But over billions of years the earth would have been so close it would have been incinerated.

Comments for The Earth's Constant Drift

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Aug 29, 2016
Thoughts vs. Research
by: Paul (Webmaster)

Hi Greg,

Thanks for commenting. There are a lot of thoughts one could have about the sun and earth if there were not research weeding some of them out. In a discussion like this, it is good to do some research to find out what has been established by testing and measurement before we start presenting ideas that have been proven wrong by the research already.

Paul Pavao

Aug 29, 2016
Earth was closer
by: Greg

A lot of variable information is not available to calculate properly. First of all the Sun like all stars is getting hotter as it gets older. (It is also expanding, one day it will be a red giant) So billions of years ago it must have been cooler and more condensed. That would explain why the Earth could survive being much closer. However you also have to allow for acceleration. When the Earth was much closer to the sun it may have been moving away at a much slower rate than now. So using 17cm as a constant will give a false measurement of distance over time. (So not as close as it would seem) Also the Earth was a smaller planet billions of years ago, so it must of had less gravity.
tons of space dust & meteorites fall to Earth every day. Vegetation grows (then dies) by absorbing the suns energy making more soil as it rots away. The Sun must be loosing mass and gravity as it burns through its fuel. However it will have been constantly fed by asteroids in its early life, and to a lesser extent now.

May 13, 2015
The earth came from our sun.
by: Anonymous

Stars radiate matter and energy outwards from their equators, which eventually slows and condenses into planets. All of our planets do the same thing, which forms each planets moons. Look at Saturn and it's ring for an example. The suns rotation is slowing, and as it does it loses some gravitational force, this makes the planets move away from the sun. As our planets move father from the sun, their rotations slow as well, which is why all planetary moons are slowly moving away from their planets. It's all about rythms and cycles. Earth was once where Venus is, and mars was once where Earth is. Venus will also one day be where Earth is, but there are still many years ahead before that happens.

Suns birth planets; planets birth moons. Planets move away from suns; moons move away from planets.

Oct 29, 2014
Babylonian documents
by: Paul (Webmaster)

I hear constantly that Genesis 1 is very much like Babylon's _Enuma Elish_, so I read it. There was no resemblance whatsoever.

I have read Gilgamesh, which is a flood story from Babylon and almost certainly, then, had to influence the Hebrew flood story, since Abraham was from Ur of the Babylonians (Chaldees). The resemblances, however, are much, much smaller than you paint them.

Oct 29, 2014
Earth drift from sun.
by: Chris Schultz

Calculating tidal drift and the sun's loss of mass due to it burning its nuclear fuel, astrophysicists eatimate the earth moves an average of 1.5 centimeters (about a half inch) away from the sun every year. This is just an average, because the earth's distance from the sun varies during the year. That means 4 billion years ago, the earth would have been about 318,000 miles closer to the sun. Enough for some warm temps, but not close enough to burn it into a cinder.

Jul 08, 2013
by: Robert

Ladies and gentlemen. My grandfather was a Baptist Mister (no not southern). He and my grandmother used take me and my older brother to bible camp in the summer. I was about 6 to 10 years old and I went to the church or tabernacle in bible camp every day. Everyone did. A few people would go to the altar to be saved or other reasons. I was curious. One day I went up to the Altar and knelt on the long cushion. Soon, I began crying, for no reason. I couldn't stop and I don't know why. Those around me hugged me and said I was saved. They said I let Jesus in my heart. I grew up having doubts about religion. I loved math and science which doesn't always agree with the bible or religion. I rarely pray, unless someone needs a prayer or If I'm really in the dumps. I read a book called "The Epic Of Gilgamesh". It's the oldest writing known to mankind. I first found it on It was written 2500 BC, long before the bible. It was thought, until recently, to be a myth. Today, the myth and the people in it have been proven to be real. There are many parts of Gilgamesh that sound incredibly similar to the bible, but dramatically different. There talk of a flood, there's talk of parting the river, there are folks similar to adam and eve. There is a plant, not a tree, of life, and more. This was before any known religion. I wonder, and I think, with this starting point, who stole the idea and wrote the first bible. I think the bible is a best selling book, written by man, for man. Read Gilgamesh and, maybe, open your eyes. I know I believe in something. There is a God. Just not the God you believe in. Here's my email if you want to comment. Don't email without reading the epic. It's not that long. I came here to learn about the earth's increasing orbit. Then I read a few comments.

Oct 18, 2012
Adam's Rib
by: Paul Pavao (webmaster)

If you're asking for my take, you can probably figure out that since I take the entire story figuratively, I am obviously looking for figurative meanings in Eve being taken from Adam's rib. I would begin with the fact that a rib is the closest body part to the heart, pulled from the side of man, and under his arm. Great picture.

I point out in the Bible section of this site why I take the story of Adam figuratively, but briefly, I think the story itself cries out that it is figurative. A man named "Man" and a woman named "Life" are placed in a garden by God, where eating one of two trees will bless or condemn them. They are deceived by a talking snake into eating from the wrong tree, and God has to drive them from the garden because if they eat from the Tree of Life, they'll live forever whether he wants them to live forever or not.

I don't think Moses is even trying to tell an historically accurate story there, except insofar as this parable accurately portrays the condition of man and his relationship with God.

Sep 16, 2012
people baffle me.
by: Samuel

it baffles me how many people stubbornly deny God created this universe. evolution just shows how God created life on this have enightened my eyes to another prospective. it also baffles me how men reject christ.

romans 10

8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

also it says that God made eve from adams rib. what's your take on that?

Sep 24, 2010
Smashing the earth
by: Paul

I never remembered to respond to that July comment about the earth being hit by another planet.

Yes, due to a lot of evidence that is probably over most of our heads, scientists believe that some large body, almost the size of earth, hit earth with a glancing blow about 4 billion years ago.

The debris, caught in orbit, eventually accreted into the moon.

The composition of the moon in comparison to the composition of the core of the earth, the lack of water on the moon, and the lack of elements that can be boiled off at the temperatures that would have been involved are all part of the evidence scientists base this on.

Sep 24, 2010
Good News!
by: Anonymous

As the previous poster has pointed out, is insufficient to have a measurable effect on the temperature on the Earth. Even though the Sun is much heavier, its tidal force on Earth is smaller than that of the moon because it decreases exponentially with distance: "Modern estimates put the size of the tide-raising force (acceleration) due to the Sun at about 45% of that due to the Moon" says

Add that the Earth is way more massive and thus has a higher inertia than the moon, it's not expected to move away several times slower than that rate of an inch or so a year which was demonstrated above to be neglegible.

Unfortunately. A lot of the fossil evidence suggests that the Earth was warmer several hundred million years ago, while models of the development of stars predict that the Sun should have been fainter. If the Earth did indeed move away steadily at a significant rate, that'd be the easiest way out of this "mystery".

Jul 01, 2010
Yeah but...
by: Anonymous

What about matter? Forget about life for a second. Did another planet smash the moon off of the earth how many bugazillions of years ago?

Apr 12, 2010
Earth and Moon Drift
by: Paul (webmaster)

I looked up the moon's movement since you gave measurements (accurate ones) for that.

The moon is indeed receding at 3.8 cm/year. Using paleontological evidence for tides, the rates of recessing can be determined for the past as well. 650 million years ago, the moon was receding only half as quickly(

I ran the math on that, and that would put the moon about 11,000 miles closer (about 4% closer) 650 million years ago, something scientists think is true. A billion years ago, the moon circled the earth in 20 days instead of 29, and the earth had an 18-hour day rather than a 24-hour one.

If you run the math, you will find that even at a 3.8 cm/year rate for the entire 4.5 billion years, the moon would only be 106,227 miles closer, which is only about 40% of the distance it is now. Not impossible at all, as many moons in the solar system orbit much closer than that.

If the earth is receding at the same rate (3.8 cm/year, which equals 106,227 miles per 4.5 billion years) then 4.5 billion years ago it would be just over 1/10 of one percent closer than it is now, since the earth is 93 *million* miles from the sun.

That's hardly enough to make a difference and certainly not enough to "incinerate" us.

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