Q:

Why is the moon important?

A:

Most people know that the moon's gravitational influence has an effect on the tides on Earth, but some scientists also believe that the presence of the moon played an important role in making Earth habitable to begin with. The interplay between the Earth and the moon mirrors events that occurred throughout the early solar system, as a Mars-sized object may have hit the Earth, sending some of the mantle into orbit that soon cooled into the moon. Over time, the relationship between the Earth and the moon may well have assisted the advent of life.

The flow of the oceanic tides facilitates the movement of heat from the equator north and south to the poles. Without those tides, it is possible that climate changes ranging from ice ages to glacial periods would not be as extreme. As they happened, the glacial phases may have helped speed up migrations of plant and animal species that caused life to spread.

Tidal heat transfer may also have made climatic fluctuations less extreme, so research is still underway to determine what actually took place over lengthy periods of time. If life came into being around hydrothermal vents deep in the oceans, then the role of the tides was likely minor, but if life began in the tidal waters, then the moon's role would have been much more significant.


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