Last updated: March 04, 2010

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Earth days could be shorter after Chilean earthquake

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Chile google earth

A Google Earth image of Chile, where a massive earthquake has affected the Earth's axis / Google Earth Source: Supplied

  • Earthquake shifts Earth's axis
  • Days may be 1.26 microseconds shorter
  • Called the "ice-skater effect"

THE earthquake that has killed over 700 Chileans and displaced over two million more has now caused our days to be shorter.

The earthquake that struck Chile measured at an 8.8 magnitude and put the entire Pacific on tsunami alert.

But scientists say the shifting in the tectonic plates has also shifted the Earth's axis.

The Earth’s overall mass distribution has likely been altered which has made the length of a day 1.26 microseconds shorter, NASA scientists say.

"The axis about which the Earth's mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimetres or 3 inches)," NASA told Bloomberg.

“It’s what we call the ice-skater effect,” David Kerridge, head of Earth hazards and systems at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh told Bloomberg.

“As the ice skater puts when she’s going around in a circle, and she pulls her arms in, she gets faster and faster. It’s the same idea with the Earth going around if you change the distribution of mass, the rotation rate changes.”

The last time a day was shortened was after the 9.1 magnitude earthquake that sparked the Boxing Day tsunami.

That shift in the tectonic plates that lie underneath the ocean surface caused days to shorten by 6.8 microseconds, scientists say.

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  • Chaotic Posted at 3:56 PM March 02, 2010

    Hey, thats 1.26 microseconds less we have to spend at work every day!!

  • Jesse Coole of Perth Posted at 3:56 PM March 02, 2010

    2012! Danny Glover! HELP!

  • Jimara of ACT Posted at 3:56 PM March 02, 2010

    I want a BS job at NASA, they do awesome work.

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