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 ...
26
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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. ...
23
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4answers
5k 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?
23
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3answers
1k 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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6answers
4k 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)?
21
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3answers
2k 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 ...
19
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1answer
447 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 ...
18
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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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2answers
1k 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 ...
16
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9answers
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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 ...
16
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2answers
170 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
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3answers
498 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
553 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 ...
15
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3answers
736 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
497 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
14
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1answer
222 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 ...
14
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2answers
413 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 ...
13
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3answers
193 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
9k 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
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2answers
11k 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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1answer
261 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
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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
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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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3answers
610 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 ...
11
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1answer
749 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 ...
10
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2answers
377 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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4answers
3k 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 ...
10
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4answers
765 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
135 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 ?
9
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4answers
582 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
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1answer
575 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?
9
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2answers
90 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
152 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 ...
9
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1answer
125 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 ...
8
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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
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2answers
568 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
604 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
486 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
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1answer
894 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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1answer
2k 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, ...
8
votes
1answer
17 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
129 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 - ...
8
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3answers
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What would happen if the polar ice caps of Mars melted?

My dad told me that Mars' polar ice caps are made of H2O and CO2. If they melt, would it add an atmosphere to Mars and allow life?
8
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1answer
916 views

For observing planets what kind of telescope offers the best view?

I've heard that using a refractor is better than a reflector when it comes to planets to best reproduce their colors. But perhaps other factors can weight in too? For example, do you want a slow or ...
8
votes
1answer
620 views

Why does Jupiter emit more energy than it receives?

I hear that Jupiter and Saturn emit more energy than they receive from the Sun. This excess energy is supposedly due to contraction. Is this accepted as fact (or is it controversial)? Does this ...
7
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1answer
2k 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 ...
7
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2answers
95 views

Earliest terrestrial planet?

If I've understood correctly, the heavier elements needed for terrestrial planets such as iron can only form in supernova. If that is indeed true, how long since the beginning of the universe would ...