The path a body takes while moving through space under the influence of the gravitational forces of other bodies

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69
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4answers
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Where does the extra kinetic energy come from in a gravitational slingshot?

I read in this answer in this site that the KE a free-falling ball acquires is not originated by the attracting body but that energy was actually stored in the ball when it had been lifted to the ...
58
votes
5answers
6k views

Is there a small enough planet or asteroid you can orbit by jumping?

I just had this idea of orbiting a planet just by jumping and then flying upon it on its orbit kind of like superman. So, Would it be theoretically possible or is there a chance of that small body to ...
43
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2answers
3k views

Why are our planets in the solar system all on the same disc/plane/layer?

I always see pictures of the solar system where our sun is in the middle and the planets surround the sun. All these planets move on orbits on the same layer. Why?
42
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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 ...
40
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14answers
11k views

Why do we say that the earth moves around the sun?

In history we are taught that the Catholic Church was wrong, because the Sun does not move around the Earth, instead the Earth moves around the Sun. But then in physics we learn that movement is ...
37
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5answers
11k views

Is it possible to have a geostationary satellite over the poles?

My understanding of orbital mechanics is very limited, but as I understand geostationary satellite, they stay in place by having an orbital speed corresponding to the spot they're orbiting over. So ...
31
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6answers
10k views

Could there be a star orbiting around a planet?

I wonder if there ever could be a star (really small) which may orbit around a planet (really big)?
30
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3answers
6k views

If we threw a baseball from the ISS, could we deorbit the ball?

Clearly this is a hypothetical question. Say we bring a star baseball player into NASA, prep them appropriately for a mission in space, and fly them up to the International Space Station. They go on ...
30
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3answers
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Why do the planets' orbital distances fall on an exponential curve?

Background: I was recently reading a book on the planets to my son and I noticed a pattern in the distributions of the planets. The planets' distances roughly follow an exponential distribution. ...
28
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1answer
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Why does it take so long to get to the ISS?

I don't understand why when first launched Space X's Dragon capsule had to orbit the Earth many times in order to match up with the ISS? Was this purely to match it's speed, or to get closer (as in ...
27
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5answers
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What symmetry causes the Runge-Lenz vector to be conserved?

Noether's theorem relates symmetries to conserved quantities. For a central potential $V \propto \frac{1}{r}$, the Laplace-Runge-Lenz vector is conserved. What is the symmetry associated with the ...
25
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5answers
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Why doesn't dark matter affect planetary motion?

If the universe is made up of ~95% dark matter, and it interacts only gravitationally then why didn't Newton and Kepler discover it before ? Why does it show itself only in the radial velocity profile ...
24
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4answers
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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 ...
24
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4answers
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How do you calculate the anomalous precession of Mercury?

One of the three classic tests of general relativity is the calculation of the precession of the perihelion of Mercury's orbit. This precession rate had been precisely measured using data collected ...
23
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5answers
7k views

Build a ring around Earth, then remove the supports

What would happen if we decided to build a giant ring that managed to wrap around the whole world, end to end that was supported with pillars all along the ring and then the supports all suddenly ...
23
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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 ...
21
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6answers
35k views

Why don't planets have Circular orbits?

This might be a completely wrong question, but this is bothering me since many days ago. Given the mass (Sun) curves the space around it, gravitation is the result of such curved space (Correct me if ...
20
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9answers
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Why are orbits elliptical? [duplicate]

Almost all of the orbits of planets and other celestial bodies are elliptical, not circular. Is this due to gravitational pull by other nearby massive bodies? If this was the case a two body system ...
20
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5answers
3k views

How close does light have to be, to orbit a perfect sphere the size and mass of Earth?

The moon orbits Earth at about $380,\!000 \,\mathrm{km}$ away from it, at around $3,600 \,\mathrm{km}$ an hour. I was thinking, with light traveling at $300,\!000 \,\mathrm{km/s}$, how close to ...
20
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3answers
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Gravity in other dimensions than 3 and stable orbits

I have heard from here that stable orbits (ones that require a large amount of force to push it significantly out of it's elliptical path) can only exist in a three spatial dimensions because gravity ...
20
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2answers
628 views

Why don't stars in globular clusters all orbit in the same plane?

Globular clusters like Omega Centauri certainly don't seem to be very coplanar at all. In other words, why doesn't the explanation at Why are our planets in the solar system all on the same disc/...
19
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7answers
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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 ...
19
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2answers
7k views

Might a planet perform figure-8 orbits around two stars?

Might a planet perform figure-8 orbits around two stars? I'm thinking that if the two stars were equal mass (and not orbiting each other) then a planet that were to go right between them would ...
19
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2answers
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Are tidal power plants slowing down Earth's rotation?

Are tidal power plants slowing down Earth's rotation to the speed of the orbiting moon? (1 rotation per 28 cca days) Are they vice versa increasing the speed of moon orbiting by generating some ...
16
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8answers
4k views

Why doesn't orbital body keep going faster and faster? [duplicate]

If we consider the change in velocity during an infinitesimal interval of an orbit: where body B is orbiting body A, we can see that the magnitude of the resultant vector (the green arrow) is ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

Why are these periods the same: a low earth orbit and oscillations through the center of the earth?

Related: Why does earth have a minimum orbital period? I was learning about GPS satellite orbits and came across that Low Earth Orbits (LEO) have a period of about 88 minutes at an altitude of 160 km....
16
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3answers
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Are there any exact data about Earth's orbit?

Wikipedia says that the Earth's orbit's axis is $a=149\ 598\ 000\ \mathrm{km}$ and its eccentricity is $e=0.016\ 7086$, but if we use these values to find distance at aphelion and perihelion we get $...
16
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6answers
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Is Melancholia's orbit impossible?

In the 2011 movie Melancholia, a planet, also called Melancholia, enters the solar system and hits the Earth. I want to leave aside the (also unreasonable) aspect that planet "hides behind the Sun" ...
16
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3answers
6k views

Why are Saturn's rings so thin?

Take a look at this picture (from APOD http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110308.html): I presume that rocks within rings smash each other. Below the picture there is a note which says that Saturn's rings ...
16
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2answers
391 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, ...
15
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6answers
4k views

Throwing an object around the Earth. Is it possible?

Some of you might be familiar with the cartoon called Astérix. In one of the episodes, Obelix (the really strong fat guy in the stylish striped pants) enters a spear throwing competition. He beats the ...
15
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4answers
2k views

What would happen if the Earth was in a polar orbit around the sun?

This is a question that has been bugging me for a while now, I was wondering about the effects on the Earth if it was in different orbital situations to what it is now, and one of those was what would ...
15
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1answer
3k views

When will the Moon reach escape velocity?

From what I know, the Moon is accelerating away from the Earth. Do we know when it will reach escape velocity? How do we calculate this?
15
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1answer
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How intense a magnetic field would it take to keep an hypothetical iron-made moon orbiting around it?

The intention of the question is to provide an example of the weakness of gravity. I imagine a horseshoe magnet located at the Earth's centre (remove the Earth), and a ferromagnetic moon. How ...
15
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4answers
16k views

Why are some galaxies flat?

What is the explanation for the flatness of some galaxies? (If it's due to their rotation then why they are rotating, why some other galaxies are not flat etc., I would like to hear a nice and ...
14
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 ...
14
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
14
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5answers
6k views

Why do we always see the same side of the Moon? [duplicate]

I am puzzled why we always see the same side of the Moon even though it is rotating around its own axis apart from revolving around the earth. Shouldn't this only be possible if the Moon is not ...
14
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2answers
3k views

Does everything orbit around some universal “center of mass”?

I have read many questions about the center of the Universe. I even have some favorite ones. I understand the fact that every point in the universe experiences expansion of space the same way. Also ...
13
votes
4answers
1k views

Why do all the planets of the solar system orbit in roughly the same 2D plane?

Most images you see of the solar system are 2D and all planets orbit in the same plane. In a 3D view, are really all planets orbiting in similar planes? Is there a reason for this? I'd expect that the ...
13
votes
7answers
13k views

What is the simplest way to prove that Earth orbits the Sun?

Assume you're talking to someone ignorant of the basic facts of astronomy. How would you prove to them that Earth orbits the Sun? Similarly, how would you prove to them that the Moon orbits Earth?
13
votes
4answers
908 views

Is it possible that 5 planets can revolve around a single star in a single orbit?

I'm writing a novel and I'm quite confused if this system could be possible in the real universe. Is it possible that a system exist, where 5 identical planets which could be of same characteristics (...
13
votes
1answer
632 views

Do celestial objects experience drag from the near vacuum of space/does the near vacuum have a mean velocity?

For instance do the planets around the sun experience drag from the near vacuum of space? Or do the (hydrogen) atoms in interplanetary space have a mean velocity near orbital speeds, such that object ...
13
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1answer
970 views

Mars just collided with Earth! A question of eccentricity

One of the standard theories behind the formation of our Moon is the giant impact hypothesis, according to which Earth was struck by a Mars-sized body (about $10\%$ the mass of Earth) early in its ...
13
votes
2answers
504 views

What accounts for the discrepancies in my calculations of year lengths?

A common exercise in many introductory astronomy texts is to use the lengths of various kinds days to calculate the approximate length of the corresponding year. For example, ratio $k$ of the length ...
13
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1answer
1k views

James Webb Space Telescope's halo orbit at Lagrange point L2

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to be launched in 2018 and operate in the L2 vicinity, about 1.5 million km from Earth. It will be placed in a halo orbit around the unstable L2 ...
12
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3answers
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Why don't stars have Keplerian orbits?

In a comment to Rob Jeffries' answer to this question on spherical galaxies, Incnis Mrsi commented There should exist the entire range of orbits in a spherically symmetric system: near-circular, ...
12
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4answers
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Is Feynman's explanation of how the moon stays in orbit wrong?

Yesterday, I understood what it means to say that the moon is constantly falling (from a lecture by Richard Feynman). In the picture below there is the moon in green which is orbiting the earth in ...
12
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4answers
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Two planets in same orbit - not planets?

Let us pretend for a moment that there are two identical planets that are exactly opposite their star from each other and are the same distance from said star. (This would make them, at all times, ...
12
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2answers
882 views

Does an elliptical orbit of a satellite maintain its orientation as the Earth revolves?

Imagine a satellite in an elliptical orbit around Earth. As the earth travels around the sun, does the elliptical orbit of the satellite swing around Earth, as pictured in A, or does it maintain a ...