Why do Planets Spin?

Image Credit: Flickr User Eric Vanderpool, via CC

We all know that the gravitational force keeps the planets orbiting around the Sun, and moons around their respective planets. But have you ever thought why the all the planets in our solar system rotate?

Why do all of them except Venus and Uranus rotate in a counter-clockwise direction?

Does the Sun also rotate?

Well, we have answers for all the questions.

The answers remain hidden in the way our solar system originated. A huge cloud of gas and dust was disturbed when there was an explosion nearby. The explosion caused waves that went on to squeeze the cloud. As the gas and dust particles moved together, the cloud started to spin. As the cloud spun, the particles started getting attracted to each other and formed lumps due to gravitational forces. This cloud was a Solar Nebula. These lumps got bigger and formed the planets and the moon. The hot center became the star, known as the Sun. Since these planets and the Sun got formed in spinning clouds that exerted a force on them, they started spinning.

Why are they still spinning?

They are still spinning because there is no other force to stop it. Try throwing a ball on a slippery surface, would it stop? Nope. Would an apple on your table move by itself? Nope. So we know that if force is not applied to stop something or start something then they would either keep moving or keep still. This fact is the law of inertia.

What would happen if Earth stopped rotating?

If all of a sudden the Earth stops rotation, we would all be flying away in the Earth’s atmosphere. Phew! That is scary. But do not worry this is not going to happen for the next billion years. However, if the Earth gradually stops moving, there would be no day and night every 24 hours. Half of the year one part of Earth would be barbecued and the rest of the year the other half would be in the deep freeze. There would be no seasons. Sad. Same situation like the one we have near the poles.

What would cause the Earth to stop?

A catastrophic event like a strong asteroid collision might cause Earth to stop rotating or start rotating in a clockwise direction. Maybe this is the reason Venus and Uranus are rotating in a clockwise direction while the rest of the planets are moving in an anticlockwise direction.

Earth is a unique planet. Everything just went right with Our Earth. Just the right distance from the Sun with perfect day and nights. Wonderful seasons. Let us take care of our planet.

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One response to “Why do Planets Spin?”

  1. Randy Evangelista Avatar
    Randy Evangelista

    Newton’s Law of universal gravitation and Kepler’s Law of planetary motion describes the movement of planets around the sun. Equations are derived from these laws and hence the birth of Celestial Mechanics. But nowhere in the literature can we find an accepted law of Planetary Rotation because everyone is convinced that there is nothing special about the rotation of the planets. Except for the “overused” explanation…

    “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…spinning gas and dust flattened into a protoplanetary disk and due conservation of angular momentum the planets are now rotating with RANDOM velocities”

    It’s the same as saying we don’t really know how it works. We have a concept but not enough to express it in numbers.

    This is a quote from Lord Kelvin (William Thomson):“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”

    Follow the below link for the Planetary Spin Equations.

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