Passage of Sun through the sky has haunted many in the past. At first, ancient people believed the Sun rotated around us. Moreover, they ascertained the passage to start from the East, due to its rotation. However, it wasn’t until the fundamentals of astronomy and science were established when people understood the reality behind the passage. We came to know that the Sun is fixed and the passage is as a result of our rotation. To put it into perspective, the Sun appears to be stationary and the Earth orbits around it, changing time and subsequently, days. As of now, this is the very basis for our measurement of time.
After an unexpected turn of events, NASA believes that this passage might get altered in future. To clarify, it isn’t the ideology behind the passage that is about to change but the direction of its path. We are accustomed to the Sun rising from the east and set in the west. Turns out, this wouldn’t persist for too long. But before we get there, it is important to understand why the Sun rises from the east
Why does the Sun rise in the east?
Perhaps the most unsurprising fact, the phenomenon of sunrise hasn’t raised many questions. Although this is an obvious fact, many people are still unaware of the science behind it. If you haven’t questioned why the sun rises in the east but not west, I suggest it is about time you do. The passage of the sun is dependent on Earth’s rotation. Earth’s rotation, when viewed above the northern polar region, it would appear as if it is rotating counter-clockwise. As a result of which, our planet rotates from west to east. Subsequently, this makes the Sun move towards the west. There shouldn’t be much confusion as this is a generalisation. Now, there’s a question that you might ask yourself at this point in time. Is there any other plant where the Sun rises due west and sets due west? Surprisingly, the answer is Yes!
As of now, scientists have identified 3 planets wherein the Sun rises due west. Though it is hard to digest, they have a solid scientific reason for the same.
Venus is one among the three planets where this exception is observed. The reason for this is Venus’ retrograde rotation. Scientists believe that at one point Venus was similar to other planets. However, Venus flipped its axis by 180 thereby spinning in the opposite direction. While our earth spins counter-clockwise, Venus spins clockwise on their axis. That is, from East to West. This shift in axis is due to strong atmospheric tides from the Sun. To clarify, although Venus spins clockwise about its axis, it still orbits the sun in the counter-clockwise.
Uranus also exhibits retrograde rotation. In addition to that, its tilt also influences this change of passage. Also, Uranus, just like Venus, initially had the sun rise due east. However, at one point in time, a massive object collided, titling its spin angle to 98 degrees. In 2009, scientists believed that Uranus once had a massive moon, who’s gravitational pull caused the planet to fall on its side.
Mars’ shift in its rotation is one of the latest findings. Once a planet that moved towards the East, it has now stopped going towards this direction but to shift its movement. In 3 months of Earth time, Mars shifted from east-bound to west-bound. Meaning, the Sun would rise from the West.
Retrograde motion of Earth
That brings us to our habitable blue planet. Will there be a shift in our axis? Currently, our planet has a prograde motion, and a prograde orbit of the Sun. However, it doesn’t take much time for this to change. As you can see, three planets in our solar system have already reversed its course. On the basis of this chronology, many tabloids started publishing the possibility of our planet earth shifting its axis. Things escalated further when NASA confirmed this phenomenon. This seemingly impossible event would change our earth’s angular momentum thus reverse our rotation.
Shifting of Magnetic Poles
The term retrograde motion has amassed a lot of perplexities, especially when it is related to our Earth. Hence the reversal of rotation can be explained using the shifting of magnetic poles. It is easier to understand, as scientists have enough data on the earth’s magnetic field and its polarity. In fact, they believe that our magnetic field has shifted its polarity many times over the millennia. Furthermore, they have solid data that predicts the compass pointing towards the south 800,000 years ago. This is due to that fact that the compasses are calibrated in accordance with Earth’s magnetic field. Hence any shift in our magnetic field would affect the compass’ direction.
Despite the legitimacy behind NASA’s claims, scientists have found our magnetic field becoming weaker. Over the past 160 years, the intensity has significantly dropped. If this is a sign, then we might as well witness a polar reversal soon. Although it is not possible for scientists to provide an exact date, they see a window between 1000 to 10000 years from now. Monika Korte, the scientific director of the Niemegk Geomagnetic Observatory at GFZ Potsdam in Germany, said: “It’s not a sudden flip, but a slow process, during which the field strength becomes weak, very probably the field becomes more complex and might show more than two poles for a while, and then builds up in strength and [aligns] in the opposite direction”. Geologist claim that this reversal has occurred many times throughout Earth’s history
First obvious consequence would be the compasses pointing towards the South and Sun rising from the west. Sun’s passage is intertwined with the retrograde motion. Although there is limited clarity over this phenomenon, studies claim that the pole reversal might encourage retrograde motion and hence the change in the Sun’s passage. On the other hand, some predict that this pole reversal would adversely affect the geography of our Earth. In the sense, many believe that massive earthquakes would distort the positions of continents, hence wiping out the entire mankind. Then again, we really don’t know whether this is legitimate. To sum up, fortunately,/unfortunately, we won’t be able to witness this spectacular event, but our future generation certainly would!