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Earth History

Strange but True: The Earth Is Not Round

This is not another conspiracy about “Earth is flat.” A group of people believe that the structure of our planet is not spherical but completely flat. 

The planet is definitely spherical, but as always, reality is complicated.

The debate about the shape of the Earth comes up every now and then online. It has been brought back to the forefront by Holly Moffat, a 21-year-old Twitter user who told the world how shocked she was to learn that the Earth is not perfectly round, as we were taught in school, but bumpy.In her video, she reveals seemingly real pictures of the earth as it looks.

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In the video, which has garnered nearly 8 million views since being released on June 19, Holly said: “How, after 21 years of living on this planet, do I only now discover that it is the shape of the earth and that it is not perfectly round?” My brain is exploding.”

Earth shape Geoid undulation in false color shaded relief and vertical exaggeration (10000 scale factor). Wikipedia

While many estimated that the space rock we live on would not be a perfectly round sphere, they did not expect to see this crooked thing. 

“I assumed it was not perfectly round, but why lie to us like that?” I wrote one of the science textbooks in schools that misrepresented, “No, I refuse to believe it looks like that,” another added. One viewer wrote: “It is clear to us that it will not be a perfect round.” The ball is still round enough and the pictures do not reflect, “and another added, “This is just proof that we are not all perfect.” Another person affirmed, “Even the Earth has an unrealistic beauty standard.”

According to NOAA, although the Earth looks to be spherical when viewed from orbit, it is actually more ellipsoidal in shape. However, even an ellipsoid cannot completely depict the unique and ever-changing form of the Earth.

The images Holly has taken from the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite show that the Earth’s “is” exaggerated by a factor of 7,000. The exaggerated images make valleys and peaks appear lower or higher, respectively, than they are in reality.

Earth Geoid height computed from the gravity field model Pavlis et al 2012/ source researchgate

The GOCE is a research satellite designed to map the Earth’s gravitational field and geoid, the ocean surface under the influence of the gravity of the Earth. As another observer noted, “The images show the Earth’s gravitational field measured by GOCE and not its physical shape.”

The shape of the Earth is even more distorted. Mountains rise to an altitude of almost 30,000 feet, and ocean canals submerge 36,000 feet below sea level. The sea surface itself is not regular. Slight changes in the Earth’s gravitational field cause permanent hills and valleys across the ocean of over 300 feet relative to the ellipsoid. ” The NOS also added that the shape of the planet changes from time to time due to events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or meteorite damage.

Imagine lying down on a soft mattress and then getting up from the same spot. You see an indentation in the mattress where your body had been, and a puffed-up area around the indentation where the mattress rose. Once you get up, the mattress takes a little time before it relaxes back to its original shape. The same is happening to our planet.



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