How close would the Moon need to get to Earth until it was pulled apart?

If the Moon was to make an approach to Earth, at what point would its material begin to be stripped?


The Moon would have to be 95 per cent closer to Earth to feel this effect. Image credit: NASA/Jeff Williams

Asked by Michael Woods

If the Moon was in an orbit getting closer to Earth, it could reach a distance of roughly 19,000 kilometres (11,800 miles) before the gravity of Earth began pulling its lunar companion apart – this distance is known as the ‘Roche limit’. Currently the Moon sits at an average distance of 384,400 kilometres (238,855 miles) from us and is slowly moving away, so there are absolutely no concerns for this happening!

In this scenario, if the Moon got closer to our planet, it would become deformed as Earth’s tidal forces overcame our lunar companion’s gravity. Material would then be stripped off the surface, which would then fall towards us.

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