Fr.: accélération séculaire
The apparent gradual increase in the → Moon's motion in its orbit, as measured relative to → mean solar time. Secular acceleration corresponds to an extremely gradual reduction in the speed of the → Earth's rotation. The slow-down of the Earth's spin comes mainly from → tidal frictions from the Moon. Historically, Edmond Halley (1656-1742) was the first to suggest that the Moon's mean rate of motion relative to the stars was gradually increasing. In 1693, Halley compared eclipses of recent, medieval, and classical Babylonian time, and discovered that the Moon's mean motion had been gradually increasing. Using Lunar Laser Ranging measurement, based on laser reflectors left by the Apollo astronauts on the Moon's surface (1969 to 1972), the secular acceleration is derived to be -25".4 ± 0".1 century 2 (Xu Huaguan et al., 1996, in Earth, Moon and Planets 73, 101). This corresponds to a linear increase of about 3.5 cm yr-1 in the mean Earth-Moon distance.