Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Chile quake shifted the Earth on its axis shortening length of day

Bruno Sandoval, right, and Aileen Marquez look at a damaged vehicle after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Bruno Sandoval, right, and Aileen Marquez look at a damaged vehicle after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.
A man holds up a Chilean flag in a flooded area after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago
Rescue workers looks for earthquake victim in a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
Police officers search for victims after an earthquake in Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28
People stand in front of a damaged house after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.
Police officers carry the body of an earthquake victim in Curanipe, Chile, some 241 miles (389 km.) southwest of Santiago Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People survey a destroyed house after an earthquake in Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Residents look at a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Saturday Feb. 27, 2010 after an 8.8-magnitude struck central Chile. The epicenter was 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city. (AP Photo)
People walk past a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)
Rosa Neira, 36, stands in front of a damaged house after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Cars are seen overturned and stuck at a collapsed road in northern Santiago Saturday Feb. 27, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. The quake hit 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of the capital and the epicenter was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city
Police officers search for victims after an earthquake at the shore of Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.
A man stands in front of a damaged house after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
A flooded area is seen after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
A dog sits in front damaged buildings after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People stand next to a damaged bridge after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Soldiers sit in a vehicle in front of a destroyed building in Concepcion, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
People walk along the shore after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago
People walk aside a destroyed road in Talcahuano, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, following a devastating earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday Feb. 27. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
People fill containers with drinking water in Talcahuano, southern Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
Soldiers guard the streets of Talcahuano, southern Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
People carry supplies along a street in Talcahuano, southern Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
Rescue workers recover the body of an earthquake victim from a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
A man carries goods during looting in a supermarket in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday
People walk in a damaged area of Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Police officers recover the body of a woman buried in the mud after drawing under sea water during the earthquake is seen in Curanipe, Chile, some 241 miles, 389 km, southwest of Santiago Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People carry supplies as they walk through the streets of Talcahuano, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, Feb. 27, knocking out power and closing most businesses. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
A man walks past a destroyed road in Talcahuano, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, following a devastating earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday, Feb. 27. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
A vehicle sits on the rubble of a house after an earthquake in Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Members of a family, with sacks containing food, take a rest in front of a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)
People stand next to a damaged bridge after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Residents search for belongings to recover from destroyed houses by the sea in Pelluhue, Chile, some 206 miles (332 kilometers) southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)

The earthquake in Chile has probably shortened the length of the day by about 1.26 millionths of a second, according to Nasa.

The magnitude 8.8 quake may have moved the planet on its axis by about 7cm.

Dr Richard Gross, a scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, California, has calculated that the strength of the quake and its location resulted in a slight movement of the Earth's figure axis, around which the mass of the planet is balanced. One implication of the shift is that the speed of rotation around this axis has probably increased so that the day length has been shortened — a reversal of the historic process of the Earth's rotation slowing down and the days getting longer over millennia.

Dr Gross said that the Sumatran earthquake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia in 2004, which was magnitude 9.1, probably shortened the day length by 6.8 millionths of a second. The smaller Chilean earthquake caused a greater shift of the Earth because it occurred further from the equator.

Although the changes to the length of the day are so small as to be undetectable, they are permanent.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz