# Questions tagged [celestial-mechanics]

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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 ...
13k views

### Why are $L_4$ and $L_5$ 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 $L_1$, $L_2$, and $L_3$ lagrangian points. The ...
3k views

### What causes matter to initially rotate/spin/orbit?

What causes matter to initially rotate/spin/orbit? All I can find is the statement that in space particles of dust/gas/matter contract into a spinning disk due to gravity (to form stars, solar systems,...
6k views

### Why is Larry Niven's Ringworld Unstable?

In his 1970 science fiction novel Ringworld, author Larry Niven describes the eponymous Ringworld, a gigantic structure shaped as a ring with a radius of around 1 AU, rotating around a star in the ...
258 views

### How are the Lagrange points determined?

According to Hyper Physics, there are 5 equilibrium, or Lagrange points of the Earth-Moon system and only 2 of them are said to represent stable equilibrium points. This made me think if there is an ...
879 views

### What is the typical orbital life of an artificial satellite?

The orbit of satellites around Earth eventually decays, or so I read. This is typically caused either by atmospheric drag, or by tides. I would assume most satellites have a limited service life in ...
8k views

### What is the relationship between mass, speed and distance of a planet orbiting the sun?

After reading this fascinating story about a new exoplanet, I was wondering about how mass, speed and distance determine a circular orbit of a planet around a star. Given the mass of the sun and star,...
878 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 ...
75k 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 ...
10k views

### What does the Moon's orbit around the Sun look like?

I'm curious as to what the Moon's orbit around the Sun looks like. If there's an answer, what's the intuition for it? Here are some things I'm assuming when trying to tackle this question: The Moon's ...
8k 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 ...
10k 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 days ...
2k 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 ...