Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 179–200 | Cite as

Astronomical evidence concerning non-gravitational forces in the Earth-Moon system

  • R. R. Newton


The most conspicuous effects of non-gravitational forces in the Earth-Moon system are the accelerations of the Earth's spin and of the Moon's mean angular velocity. Evidence indicates that the present acceleration of the Moon is between −20 and −52 s of arc per century per century and that the present average acceleration of the Earth is between −5 and −23 parts in 109 per century. Over the past 2000 yr, the average for the Moon has been about −42 s per century per century and for the Earth has been about −28 parts in 109 per century; these values are probably correct within 10%. Evidence that does not involve any assumptions about the present values shows strongly that there was a ‘square wave’ in the accelerations that lasted from about 700–1300, and that the accelerations were different by a factor of perhaps 5 during the time of this wave from what they were at neighboring times.

An effect that seems to be changing the obliquity of the ecliptic has been reported in recent literature, on the basis of data obtained within the past century. The effect amounts to about 1/4 s of arc per century if it is real. Older data are not accurate enough to give information about an effect this small.

There are no satisfactory explanations of the accelerations. Existing theories of tidal friction are quite inadequate.


Angular Velocity Recent Literature Past Century Satisfactory Explanation Average Acceleration 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. R. Newton
    • 1
  1. 1.Applied Physics LaboratoryThe Johns Hopkins UniversitySilver SpringUSA

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