Earth sets record for shortest day as it speeds up rotation

On June 29, the Earth completed one rotation in 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours, marking the shortest day ever since scientists began measuring the rotation of the Earth using atomic clocks.

For the last few years, the Earth’s rotation has been speeding up. (Illustrative image) (Image credit: Pixabay)

Sometimes, we just can’t wait for the day to get over fast enough and it seems like the planet we live on agrees sometimes. The Earth has set the record for the shortest day ever recorded since scientists began using atomic clocks to measure its rotational speed. On June 29, our planet completed one rotation in 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours.

Time and Date reports that the Earth almost broke this record soon after when it completed a rotation in just 1.50 milliseconds less than 24 hours. Scientists studying the Earth’s rotation use a measurement called “length of day” to describe how fast or slow the planet is spinning. Length of day is the difference between the time the planet takes to complete one rotation on its axis and 86,400 seconds (24 hours).

When the length of day is a positive number and rising, the Earth is spinning slower and vice versa. In recent years, our planet seems to be in quite a hurry. In 2020, Time and Date reported that the planet achieved its 28 shortest recorded days in the same year.

In fact, the planet continued its fast and furious pace in 2021, even though the shortest day of 2021 was fractionally longer than the shortest of 2020. Now in 2022, it looks like the Earth has sped up again.

Image credit: Time and Date

This graph created by Time and Date from the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) shows how the length of day measurement has been on a constant downward trend for a while.

But what could possibly be causing the Earth’s rotation to get faster and faster? Well, that is not as clear as day. Scientists are not really sure about the reason for this trend and they struggle to make predictions about the length of day more than a year ahead. But there are some proposed ideas that could explain the phenomenon.

Some scientists propose that the decrease in length of day could have something with what is known as the “Chandler Wobble”. The Chandler Wobble refers to a small deviation in the Earth’s axis of rotation relative to solid earth. But that is just one of the ideas that can explain the phenomenon and there is still a lot of debate surrounding it.

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First published on: 03-08-2022 at 01:36:57 pm


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