The Earth orbits the Sun once every 365 days, or one full year. It does this while whizzing through the vacuum of space at break-neck speeds of up to 110,000 kilometers per hour. Many of us take the Earth’s orbit around the Sun for granted, but as it turns out, life would be different (if not entirely nonexistent) if the Earth stopped orbiting the star at the center of our solar system.
How quickly would life perish? It really depends on how quickly the Earth stopped orbiting the Sun. In a hypothetical impossibility, if the Earth stopped abruptly in place, then we’d all go flying into outer space with the similar flinging effect of being ejected from a car during a sudden car accident – only with much more force. If it happened over time, however, then some models predict that most life forms would perish after approximately two months.
The Sun’s gravity is constantly tugging on the Earth, and as it turns out, our planet’s orbit is the one act of force that fights that gravitational pull to lock us into a stable position in the solar system. If the planet’s orbit began to decelerate, then the gravitational pull would eventually over-power that force, resulting in an inward drift of our planet toward the Sun.
This drift would result in an exponential increase in the Earth’s temperature. It would start small, but things would quickly heat up so much that life would cease to exist. After passing Mercury’s line of orbit, Earth would be ripped apart by the Sun’s immense gravity, eventually ceasing to exist entirely.
Indeed, Earth’s seemingly insignificant orbit around our Sun is what maintains the fragile balances needed for life to exist.