What if the moon was the same distance away as the ISS?
That’s the question asked, and answered, in this new simulation by YouTuber yetipc1. While we think of the International Space Station as being, well, way out there in space, it’s not that far. Only around 400 km up, actually. If the Earth was a basketball, then the ISS would only be about a centimeter off its surface.
On average, our moon resides 384,400 km away from Earth (I say “on average” because its orbit is an ellipse, rather than a circle). For our basketball-Earth, that puts the tennis ball-sized moon at the NBA three-point line. That’s hard to picture, so here’s a video from Veritasium to help. Even at that incredible distance, it sucks on our oceans with its gravity, daily pulling the tides in and out.
Think about that! Even at that incredible distance, the moon can warp the liquid on the surface of Earth! Which brings me to a major problem with this video … in order to see this, we’d all be dead, and Earth would be very messed up indeed.
When two large astronomical bodies get close enough together, the pull of gravity and tidal forces will eventually warp the less massive of the two until it disintegrates. This magical distance is described as the Roche limit (although it’s also dependent on what each body is made of). Mars’ moon Phobos will likely meet this fate within 10 million years, falling apart into a ring system around our neighbor.
In the ISS/moon video, this would have already happened. So it would look more like Ron Miller’s beautifully imagined Earth-ring system. I also recommend his series on what we’d see if we had other planets in place of our moon. In the process of our moon approaching Earth, the tidal forces would tear our crust into an apocalyptic volcanic wasteland. I imagine it would look like squeezing a planet-sized double-stuff Oreo filled with magma. If you weren’t dead, it might even look beautiful, maybe like the end of Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst, which you should watch.
Anyway, visit yetipc1’s YouTube page for a great explanation of why the light in the video looks like it does, which is some pretty nifty science. And maybe leave a comment about how that guy on the left in the beginning by the fence (you’ll see what I mean) would have been dead long ago :)
Oh and finally, finish this astronomically delicious meal with my video: How Big Is The Solar System?
Happy Halloween y’all! (: