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40
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4answers
3k views

How far ahead can we predict solar and lunar eclipses?

The solar system is non-integrable and has chaos. The sun-earth-moon three-body system might be chaotic. So, how far into the future can we predict solar eclipses and/or lunar eclipses? How about ...
38
votes
8answers
5k views

“Falling upward” - how far you have to be from Earth to start falling to the Moon?

Talking about gravity with my 9 y/o she asked when do we start "falling upward" to the Moon. What is the distance at which the Moon's gravitational attraction is higher than that of the Earth and thus ...
25
votes
8answers
6k views

Why are L4 and L5 lagrangian points stable?

This diagram from wikipedia shows the gravitational potential energy of the sun-earth two body system, and demonstrates clearly the semi-stability of the L1, L2, and L3 lagrangian points. The blue ...
22
votes
6answers
6k views

Why are the orbits of planets in the Solar System nearly circular?

Except for Mercury, the planets in the Solar System have very small eccentricities. Is this property special to the Solar System? Wikipedia states: Most exoplanets with orbital periods of 20 ...
20
votes
4answers
18k views

What did general relativity clarify about Mercury?

I frequently hear that Kepler, using his equations of orbital motion, could predict the orbits of all the planets to a high degree of accuracy -- except Mercury. I've heard that mercury's motion ...
18
votes
7answers
45k views

Gravity on the International Space Station

We created a table in my physics class which contained the strength of gravity on different planet and objects in space. At altitude 0(earth), the gravitational strength is 100%. On the moon at ...
17
votes
2answers
1k views

How do horseshoe orbits work?

An asteroid was recently discovered that is in a horseshoe orbit with respect to the earth. Is there an intuitive explanation for these orbits? It seems that the earth acts as a repulsive force where ...
15
votes
2answers
348 views

Was Leverrier-Adams prediction of Neptune a lucky coincidence?

According to historians both Adams and Leverrier used Bode's law to guess the distance to Neptune, which led to a vast overestimation of its orbital period (Adams - 227 years, Le Verrier - 218 years, ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

Why do we launch rockets during the day?

The clips that I have seen of rockets launching all seem to be carried out during daytime. However, we learnt at school that rockets are fired closer to the equator and towards the east to take ...
13
votes
4answers
7k views

Can the Earth leave orbit if the population of humans and other live forms increases?

I don't know a lot about physics, but this seemed like the correct place to ask my question. I apologize in advance if it is a ridiculous one. It's actually a two part question: If the population ...
11
votes
3answers
320 views

What could cause an asymmetric orbit in a symmetric potential?

My question can be summarized as: Given a potential with a symmetry (e.g. $z\rightarrow-z$), should I expect orbits in that potential to exhibit the same symmetry? Below is the full motivation for ...
10
votes
4answers
886 views

Collision of Phobos

Mars has two moons: Phobos and Deimos. Both are irregular and are believed to have been captured from the nearby asteroid belt. Phobos always shows the same face to Mars because of tidal forces ...
10
votes
6answers
408 views

Extended object passing near an event horizon

Suppose a physically realistic object of nontrivial size (such as a star) free-falls past a black hole. The center-of-mass trajectory for the object is hyperbolic and (therefore) completely outside ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

What happens if you slow down a moon?

Let's say you'd put a whooping big rocket engine on the surface of the moon, and slow down its orbital velocity. Not to a complete stop, mind you. Just a bit slower than it was going before (a couple ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Can a moon have another large body as a satellite, and are there any examples of such?

In my mind, I'm comparing it to the Sun-Earth-Moon system. After all, the Earth is primarily a satellite of the Sun, but the Moon is still gravitationally bound to the Earth. Could something like this ...
9
votes
3answers
412 views

Can an orbit be calculated using two points and transit time?

Working in only two dimensions and assuming that the central body is at the origin of the coordinate system, given two points in space and knowing the transit time between those points, as well as the ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Kepler's third law doesn't give earth's orbital period! Why? [closed]

I tried to calculate earth's orbital period using Kepler's third law, but I found 365.2075 days for the orbital period instead of 365.256363004 which is the correct value. I checked everything, and I ...
8
votes
2answers
993 views

Gravitational slingshot maximum

I have recently read an article about gravitation slingshot assist used by Voyagers 1-2, and was thinking on why this hasn't been used for travel between solar and other systems. I mean sligshot can ...
8
votes
3answers
608 views

Parallax, obliquity, precession, and Orion?

Today, the obliquity of the earth is about 23.4°. 6500 years ago, it was about 24.1° Imagine the blue square is the constellation of Orion, and the yellow star is the sun. Viewpoint B is you, on ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Rocky Planet in the center of System [duplicate]

We all know that mostly stars are at the center of planetary systems, but is it possible that instead of a star there was a rocky planet in the center with stars (and other planets and moons) orbiting ...
7
votes
3answers
242 views

Is there any dynamical reason for the winter solstice to happen close to the perihelion?

When the winter solstice arrives, the angular momentum of the Earth, its orbital angular momentum and its radius vector with the orbital focus in the Sun are in the same plane. This happens quite ...
7
votes
1answer
221 views

Will Neptune change Pluto's orbit some day?

My seven-year-old son loves astronomy-- so much so that we read space books before bed time. One of our books talks about Pluto's orbit crossing over Neptune's orbit and will be (or is) closer to the ...
7
votes
3answers
428 views

What is the origin of spin of celestial objects?

In an older question from June 2011, Why does each celestial object spin on its own axis?, apparently revived by the system, a user is asking about the origin of the rotation of celestial bodies. The ...
7
votes
3answers
334 views

Falling through the rotating Earth

Suppose you were standing on the rotating Earth (not necessarily Equator or the poles) and suddenly your body lost the ability to avoid effortlessly passing through solid rock. Because the earth's ...
7
votes
3answers
681 views

Are there planetary systems where the planes of orbits vary greatly?

Inspired by this question, are there any known planetary systems with largely varying planes of orbit? For example a system where two planets have perpendicular planes?
6
votes
6answers
4k views

Why is the universe so organized?

If you think about the Big Bang and the flow of matter in all directions, you would think, how unorganized would this universe be? No matter how long it would take. The idea that matter or most of it ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

How did pre-Copernican astronomers accurately predict planetary position?

Copernican elements (circular orbital elements) are not very accurate. But Copernicus simplified our understanding a great deal by placing the Sun at the center of the system. Im astonished by the ...
6
votes
2answers
592 views

How about an exact solution for the position of a planet as a function of time?

Recently I was surprised to discover that no exact solution for the position of a planet as a function of time exists. I am referring to the two-body problem in a gravitational field where Newtons law ...
6
votes
2answers
426 views

Does a tidally locked planet have seasons?

Could a tidally locked planet have seasons? According to my understanding, a tidally locked planet rotates around itself exactly once per rotation around its sun. However, if the axis of rotation of ...
6
votes
3answers
368 views

How accurately is the moment of perihelion of Earth known, and how is it measured?

Earth's perihelion passed about nine hours ago. How accurately do we know the moment of closest approach of the Earth to the center of the sun? How do we make this measurement?
6
votes
1answer
384 views

Why is the Oort cloud spherical?

Having read up a bit about the Oort cloud hypothesis, I find I don't quite understand this. Why is the Oort cloud spherical while the rest of the solar system is disk-shaped?
6
votes
2answers
433 views

How to learn celestial mechanics?

I'm a PhD student in math and am really excited about celestial mechanics. I was wondering if anyone could give me a roadmap for learning this subject. The amount of information about it on the ...
6
votes
3answers
97 views

Elliptical orbit changing as a star's mass increases

I'm studying Kepler's Laws, specifically the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. I know that if the Earth was more massive, the orbit would not be significantly affected. If the Sun was more massive, I ...
6
votes
0answers
390 views

Why is the orbital resonance of the Galilean moons stable?

It is well known that the orbits of Ganymede, Europa and Io are in a 4:2:1 resonance. Most online sources (including but not limited to Wikipedia) say that such an orbital resonance, along with the ...
5
votes
2answers
226 views

Celestial Time-Keeping and Navigation

Say, for sake of argument, someone was randomly transported in time and space. Would it be possible for them to determine their location on Earth and the current time using just observations of the ...
5
votes
1answer
405 views

Potential Energy tends to infinity on the N-Body Problem

I need help to solve this problem related with the N-Body problem, i dont understand quite well what I need to define or to express in order to solve it. We assume a particular solution to the N-Body ...
5
votes
1answer
89 views

Do 2-body elliptic orbits precess in special relativity?

Einstein famously explained the anomalous precession of Mercury by showing that in general relativity elliptic orbits precess even in the 2-body problem. But apparently in the early days of quantum ...
5
votes
1answer
848 views

How to derive Kepler's equation?

The Internet lacks, so far as I know, a derivation of Kepler's equation $$ M = E - e\text{sin}(E) $$ where $M$ is the mean anomaly, $E$ the eccentric anomaly and $e$ the eccentricity. Since there ...
4
votes
5answers
1k views

Gravitation in a space that is topologically toroidal

In my scant spare time I'm building an Asteroids game. You know - a little ship equipped with a pea shooter and a bunch of asteroids floating around everywhere waiting to be to blown up. But, I wanted ...
4
votes
5answers
8k views

Why the center of our galaxy doesn't absorb us?

Depending on the theories, the center of our galaxy is a super massive black hole, this is easy to accept as a truth, but what I couldn't simply devour is how the solar system is orbiting around it ...
4
votes
5answers
513 views

How gently could a comet/asteroid/meteorite “hit” Earth?

Could an object from outer-space with the right velocity and orbit come into contact with the surface of our planet in a manner that wouldn't cause it to burn in our atmosphere?
4
votes
1answer
2k views

What would it be like if we had a planet very close to us?

My desktop background rotates through a bunch of space and nature scenes, and this one came up. What would be the effect on people walking around down here, if another earth was looming overhead ...
4
votes
1answer
96 views

How “large” is a Lagrange point?

When placing an object at a L-point, the natural assumption, as with all things gravity, is that you needn't place it in an exact spot to achieve a stable configuration. How much room do you have to ...
4
votes
4answers
10k views

Is it possible for the planets to align?

We've all heard the statement that on the 21st of December, the planets in the solar system will "align" from the point of view of the Earth. I assume this means that they would all be in the same ...
4
votes
2answers
245 views

Is tripleaxis planet possible?

Imagine. Our solar system. Our sun. Then earth and moon orbiting it. And you have "powers" to create any planet you want, any size, any density, any weight and any velocity. Would it be possible for ...
4
votes
2answers
240 views

Why isn't the time between apogee and perigee constant?

I've assumed since the translational speed of the moon along its orbit undergoes the same boosts and reductions over its orbital course, the time between the apogee and the pedigee (and respectively, ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is the Milky Way flat? [duplicate]

I read recently that the galactic "flatness" of the Milky Way is due to the rotation of the galaxy combined with a vast stretch of time. Yet, I also read where 1) the Milky Way rotates once every 225 ...
4
votes
1answer
96 views

Why does planetary spin affect the stability of orbits?

Reading about the Hill Sphere I notice that "the region of stability for retrograde orbits at a large distance from the primary, is larger than the region for prograde orbits at a large distance from ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Historically, how do we know that Earth moves around Sun? And it does so in an elliptical orbit?

I know the basics of solar system like how Earth moves around Sun, and that we have so many planets, elliptical orbit of earth, and how far is sun from earth etc etc. I want to take a step back and ...
3
votes
3answers
617 views

Do the planets really orbit the Sun?

This is a duplicate of this question on Space Exploration.SE. So why would I ask it again here? Read below. The question reads We often say that the planets orbit the Sun, which is usually a ...