Celestial body that orbits following an elliptical path around a star or stellar remnant.

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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 ...
27
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3answers
2k views

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. ...
25
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4answers
7k views

Would you be weightless at the center of the Earth?

If you could travel to the center of the Earth (or any planet), would you be weightless there?
24
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6answers
5k 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)?
24
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3answers
4k views

What nonlinear deformations will a fast rotating planet exhibit?

It is common knowledge among the educated that the Earth is not exactly spherical, and some of this comes from tidal forces and inhomogeneities but some of it comes from the rotation of the planet ...
22
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3answers
3k views

Why does the moon face earth with the same side?

I know that the rotation period of the moon equals its revolution period. It's just so astonishing that these 2 values have such a small difference. I mean, what is the probability of these 2 values ...
21
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3answers
2k views

Why do the storms of Jupiter have long life unlike that of Earth?

Recently I saw How the Universe Works. In one of the episodes, concerning Jupiter, they told that the storms on Jupiter can survive many, many, times longer than those on Earth. What is the reason ...
20
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1answer
499 views

Causes of hexagonal shape of Saturn's jet stream

NASA has just shown a more detailed picture of the hexagonal vortex/storm on Saturn: http://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-releases-images-saturns-hexagon-mega-storm-may-have-been-swirling-centuries-1496218 ...
19
votes
2answers
8k views

Is Jupiter a failed star?

In my physics lessons, my teachers have always been keen to tell my class that Jupiter is considered a 'failed star' by scientists. Is this true? In my own effort I wondered if maybe this could just ...
18
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9answers
12k views

Why are orbits elliptical?

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 ...
18
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2answers
2k views

How long until we fall into the Sun?

As a planet moves through the solar system, a bow shock is formed as the solar wind is decelerated by the magnetic field of the planet. Presumably the creation of this shock wave would cause drag on ...
18
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2answers
723 views

How deep is the Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot (GRS) is a very persistent storm system that's easily visible through a telescope on the surface of Jupiter. But what is the three-dimensional structure of the GRS, and how deep ...
17
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3answers
555 views

Why don't more rocky planets/moons have appreciable atmospheres?

It seems obvious why mercury has no atmosphere, given its proximity to the sun--but yet Venus is also fairly close, and has an extremely dense atmosphere. Titan is a large moon with an atmosphere ...
16
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2answers
187 views

What is a “Trojan Moon”?

Today I read an article about Saturn's moon Helene, and it was described as a "Trojan Moon" but no further explanation was given. It was difficult to even get any context about the term from the ...
16
votes
1answer
582 views

Could there be a body of water the size of a planet?

My friend and I were reading the news of the discovery of a black hole spewing huge amounts of water vapor into space, and it got us thinking: could there be a blob of liquid water in space the size ...
15
votes
3answers
815 views

Why is Uranus's axis of rotation tilted?

The poles of Uranus are 'in the wrong place', why is this? historically, do we have any evidence of its past? also, do we have an understanding of how its rotational axis might be evolving?
15
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1answer
239 views

The transit of Venus and solar neutrino rates

The following question was posed at the end of Maury Goodman's June 2012 long-baseline neutrino newsletter. During the Venus transit of the sun, were more solar neutrinos absorbed in Venus, or ...
15
votes
2answers
452 views

Why don't any of the gas giants have moons of Earth's mass (or greater) that orbit them? Is this generalizable to exoplanet gas giants?

Now, we know that the composition of the outer planets tend to contain a much higher ratio of ice over rock. [1] So the lack of Earth-like moons around the outer planets that this could be an artifact ...
14
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2answers
3k views

Why Aren't Saturn's Rings Clumping into Moons?

While reading with my son about how a Mars-like planet collided with the early Earth that resulted in our current moon, it said the initial debris also formed a ring, but that ring ended up getting ...
13
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
13
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3answers
211 views

How are newly discovered objects (stars, planets, galaxies…) named?

When a new astronomical object (star, planet, galaxy, comet, etc.) is discovered, what is the official procedure to name it? Who decides about the name of it? Can they be changed in time? Extra ...
12
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7answers
2k views

What is the current status of Pluto?

Pluto has been designated a planet in our solar system for years (ever since it was discovered in the last century), but a couple of years ago it was demoted. What caused this decision? And is there ...
12
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5answers
11k views

How does gravity work underground?

Would the effect of gravity on me change if I were to dig a very deep hole and stand in it? If so, how would it change? Am I more likely to be pulled downwards, or pulled towards the edges of the ...
12
votes
2answers
12k views

Is the moon a planet?

Can our moon qualify as a planet? With regard or without regard to the exact definition of the planet, can the moon be considered as planet as Mercury, Venus and Earth etc. not as the satellite of the ...
12
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4answers
688 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 ...
12
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1answer
281 views

Relationship between Mars and Earth rotation

Is it by pure random chance that Mars and the Earth have nearly the same day duration (Mars day is barely 40 minutes longer, which is just 3% difference), or there is some causal relationship between ...
11
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2answers
1k views

Is it probable that planets will stop orbiting in ellipses?

I saw this video, but I had the impression that orbiting in an ellipse or a circle is quite a coincidence - it depends on how the planet got into the Solar System. Because I think that either all ...
11
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3answers
1k views

Is it possible to see satellites with the naked eye?

Every now and then I notice some very bright "stars" in the sky. They tend to be very few (one or two, usually), and are quite much brighter than any other star out there. Often they're perfectly ...
11
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3answers
1k views

Can you damage your eyes viewing Venus?

Whilst I know it is extremely dangerous to view the sun using a telescope (or even just looking directly at it for prolong periods) can you do permanent damage to your eyes looking at Venus through a ...
11
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1answer
648 views

Falling into Saturn or Jupiter, would we pass through it until we hit the nucleus?

If we fall into Saturn or Jupiter, would we pass through it until we hit the nucleus? Or would we hit the surface and stop there?
11
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1answer
964 views

Toroidal Planets

I have read online in numerous places about the possible existence of toroidal planets, and I most people seem to believe that they could exist, but they also have no evidence to support this claim. I ...
11
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1answer
267 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 ...
10
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3answers
892 views

Planets and Pluto? Neptune?

If one of the rules to be a planet is that it needs to clear ALL objects from their orbit, does this also make Neptune a non-planet? Since it has thus far failed to clear Pluto from it's orbit. Or ...
10
votes
2answers
408 views

How large can planets or moons appear?

In many artistic impressions or movies there are pictures or scenes where the sky is filled with an enormous moon (as seen from a planet) or vice versa. I wonder if there is an upper limit to the ...
10
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1answer
3k views

How do we know the temperature on the planets?

I was watching a show and they were saying that the temperature of Pluto (I know it is not a planet) is about -300 degrees. I know that depends where in the orbit Pluto is, but how do we determine ...
10
votes
4answers
784 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
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1answer
137 views

How scientists could say that such meteorite comes from Mars

How could scientists affirm that a meteorite comes from Mars and not from another source ? This is a probability or an absolute certainty ? How much percent ?
10
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1answer
131 views

Is it possible to prove that planets should be approximately spherical using the calculus of variations?

Is it possible to use the Lagrangian formalism involving physical terms to answer the question of why all planets are approximately spherical? Lets assume that a planet is 'born' when lots of ...
9
votes
4answers
678 views

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, ...
9
votes
2answers
106 views

What are the prerequisites for considering any other planet to be habitable?

Well, there is a measure of how a planet could be considered like Earth, called Planetary habitability. Based on this measure, what are the prerequisites needed to consider a planet to be a habitable ...
9
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1answer
3k views

Do all known planets and moons have magnetic field?

In this Wikipedia article it is stated, that magnetic field of Earth is caused by currents in her core. The same origin is for Jupiter magnetic field. For Moon (article) there is a magnetic field, ...
9
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1answer
18 views

Ring height stats?

I'm working on a basic simulation system which will include planets with rings, I want to create dust and asteroids within a 3D ring but I'm struggling to find any stats on the sort of height ranges a ...
9
votes
1answer
164 views

Are Uranus and Neptune too big for their location?

So I was watching some TV, and I heard Dr. Plait mention that the planets Uranus and Neptune are too big to be located so far out in our solar system. Now, I heard his explanation on the show as to ...
8
votes
4answers
8k views

Are there planets that do not rotate on their axis?

I was reading a thread about how a pendulum would be affected if the Earth did not rotate and Larian's answer made me wonder if all planets rotate necessarily due to physics. So that's the question: ...
8
votes
2answers
653 views

What causes the orbital eccentricity?

I found some websites trying to attribute this to the external other forces affecting the 2 body problem to follow an elliptical rather than a circular orbit, but I am not convinced though. I think ...
8
votes
3answers
946 views

How do you explain Kepler's third law in general terms without complex math?

I understand the first law-elliptical orbits, and the second-equal area in same time, but I need help with the third one. Note that I am not in an AP course or taking calculus at the moment so simple ...
8
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3answers
606 views

Are planetary orbits measured from the Sun's surface or centre?

I would imagine planetary orbits are measured from the Sun's centre and not its surface. Is that true? I can't find anywhere that actually states this.
8
votes
1answer
995 views

How big (compared to our moon) would Saturn look from Titan's surface?

How large in the night sky would Saturn look from Titan's surface? I believe they are tidally locked.
8
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3answers
2k views

What if the Moon was 100x more massive: Binary planets?

I was reading a couple of Earth-Moon related questions (Mars just collided with Earth! A question of eccentricity, Could the earth have another moon?) and they got me thinking about planet-moon ...
8
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1answer
135 views

Biggest crater in the Solar System

It seems that the biggest crater in the Solar System is Borealis Basin on Mars. The Wikipedia entry and this piece of news say it has been formed by an impact with a body of around 1600 - ...