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The Question

(Submitted November 07, 1996)

How does the Earth manage to spin on its axis?

The Answer

The Earth spins on its axis because of conservation of angular momentum. The classic example of this is a figure skater. When a figure skater pulls in her arms, she spins faster. The Earth formed when gas left over from making the Sun condensed into the planets. As this gas cooled and condensed, it started to spin faster. Now that it is spinning (and not condensing any more), it will keep spinning at a steady rate unless something stops it.

Andy Ptak and the Ask an Astrophysicist team

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