The tug of gravity between Earth and its one and only natural moon is getting weaker.
A team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been gathering information, and they've found that the Moon has been slowly moving farther away from Earth for millions of years. This is causing some significant changes in how we measure time.
This means our planet is beginning to rotate more slowly on its axis, and the Moon is slowly drifting away from Earth.
So, what does this mean for us? It actually might have a big effect on how we experience the passage of time throughout the day.
Through their research on the Moon, scientists have figured out that it's been gradually moving away from Earth at a pace of 3.82 centimeters per year, and that's a really tiny change.
To put it in perspective, the Moon's crawl is so gradual that if we fast forward about 200 million years, a single day on Earth will have stretched from 24 hours to 25.
There's no need to fret about having longer days anytime soon.
Discussing the discoveries, Professor Stephen Meyers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who co-authored the study, remarked: "As the Moon moves away, the Earth is like a spinning figure skater who slows down as they stretch their arms out."
To explore this phenomenon and reach this conclusion, the researchers have been using a method called astrochronology. It's a way of connecting astronomical theories with what we observe in the Earth's geological history.
It's a highly effective method for precisely measuring cycles and long stretches of time.
Professor Meyers continued: "One of our ambitions was to use astrochronology to tell time in the most distant past, to develop very ancient geological time scales."
"'We want to be able to study rocks that are billions of years old in a way that is comparable to how we study modern geologic processes."
Meyers and his crew undertook this research because they were keen on delving into Earth's history and pondering the prospect of recreating our solar system.
"Beyond about 1.5 billion years ago, the Moon would have been close enough that its gravitational interactions with the Earth would have ripped the Moon apart," Meyers clarified that despite the Moon's age of 4.5 billion years, there is still a wealth of data to analyze.
Professor Alberto Malinvero, who worked alongside on this study, expressed his desire to dig even deeper into the research and look at 'different intervals of geologic time'.
Before this, Meyers and his team cracked the code on Earth's climate patterns by examining sediment from a rock formation that's a whopping 90 million years old.