As the Earth orbits the Sun and spins on its own axis, can we actually feel it? Ask Science describes how fast we are moving and explains what it means astronomically to start a new year.
Hi I’m Sabrina Stierwalt and I’m your new Ask Science bringing you Quick and Dirty Tips to help you make sense of science.
As we start off 2015 after clinking champagne flutes and partying the night away (or, as I did, by watching the ball drop with the TV on super low so as not to wake up the toddler upstairs), we may ask: What does it actually mean to start a new year?
Astronomically, starting a new year means the Earth has done another lap in its orbit around the Sun. To do so, it has traveled an incredible distance, all the while repeatedly spinning us around its own axis so that we face the sun during the day and face away at night..
With all this spinning and moving, how fast are we actually going? Can we feel any of the motion?
How Fast Does the Earth Move?
The Earth makes a full lap, or one orbit, around the sun in 365 1/4 days (more on that quarter later). The distance it travels is just under 590 million miles. So the average speed of the Earth in orbit, a measure of distance per unit time, is just the total distance divided by the total time or about 67,000 miles per hour. To give you an idea of how fast that is, if you could drive in a car at 67,000 miles per hour, you could make it from Los Angeles to New York City in only 2.5 minutes.
Take that Delta!
As we travel in orbit around the Sun, the Earth also spins on its own axis, giving us a period of night and day every 24 hours. For about 12 hours (plus or minus a few), our side of the Earth faces the Sun which lights up our day while people on the opposite side are asleep for the night. At the equator, the Earth is spinning at about 1,000 miles per hour. To continue with the traveling metaphor, if we could drive a car at 1,000 miles per hour, we could make it from Los Angeles to New York City in just under 3 hours.
Can We Feel the Earth Spinning?
With all this motion, you would expect to feel something, right?