An 8.8 quake is certainly a core-shaker, but an axis-mover? Yep, says a NASA scientist, just like the 9.1 quake that touched off the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 shortened the Earth's days and knocked the axis a bit off kilter. More:
"The quake, the seventh strongest earthquake in recorded history, hit Chile Saturday and should have shortened the length of an Earth day by 1.26 microseconds, according to research scientist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. One microsecond is one-millionth of a second long.
'This change should be permanent,' Gross told SPACE.com today. There is a chance the Earth's rotation could relax over time, but it is too early to tell, he said.
The computer model used by Gross and his colleagues to determine the effects of the Chile earthquake effect also found that it should have moved Earth's figure axis by about 3 inches (8 cm or 27 milliarcseconds).
'Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis,' NASA officials said in a Monday update.
The Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph).
The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced. It is offset from the Earth's north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters)."
The USGS map shown, by the way, displays the original quake and 192 aftershocks. The official death toll of the earthquake is at 799 while teams still search through the rubble for survivors and bodies. Chilean officials are also having to deal with looting, and President Michelle Bachelet is coming under criticism in Talcahuano, which was flooded Saturday by a tsunami and hasn't yet received any aid, CNN reports. Though it's worth noting that Bachelet is only president for a little more than a week -- if Sebastian Pinera the businessmen comes into office and puts Chile on the path to recovery he'll start his term on a strong note indeed.
(Map: U.S. Geological Survey)