Questions regarding an object 'falling around' another object, due to a combination of gravity and momentum.

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40
votes
6answers
3k views

Why is only one side of the Moon visible from Earth?

Why do we only ever see the same side of the moon? If this is to do with gravity are there any variables which mean we might one day see more than we have before?
20
votes
3answers
2k views

Pluto's orbit overlaps Neptune's, does this mean Pluto will hit Neptune sometime?

We know that the orbits of Pluto and Neptune overlap. This means that pluto sometimes crosses the orbit of Neptune; will Pluto hit Neptune in any circumstance?
18
votes
2answers
3k views

Why do the planets in our solar system orbit in the same plane?

(Yes I'm excluding Pluto from this the same way it was excluded for not being a planet) Observing the planets orbit of the Sun they all seem relatively planar and roughly all orbit along the same ...
16
votes
1answer
400 views

How do/did we figure out that planets move in orbits?

I've learned that planets move in orbits around the Sun, but I really don't know how I would come to this conclusion myself. I've only seen planets in the sky a couple times (knowingly), and I am ...
15
votes
2answers
3k views

How did Kepler “guess” his third law from data?

It is amazing that Kepler determined his three laws by looking at data, without a calculator and using only pen and paper. It is conceivable how he proved his laws described the data after he had ...
14
votes
2answers
8k views

What is the distance that the Moon travels during one orbit around the Earth?

Also, does it always take the same amount of time, or does it fractionally differ on each revolution?
13
votes
1answer
340 views

How stable are Lissajous orbits?

Now that the Gaia Space Telescope is on it's way to the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrangian point (SEL2), I start wondering about the stability of Gaia's orbit there. The Planck Telescope is already there, as was ...
13
votes
2answers
528 views

Is there a upper limit to the number of planets orbiting a star?

Our sun has 8 planets orbiting as well as a number of dwarf planets. Are there any calculations that hint as to whether this number is close to some theoretical maximum value or are we simply an ...
12
votes
1answer
107 views

How was Io not torn apart by tidal forces during its formation?

Jupiter's moon Io is arguably one of the most volcanically active bodies in the Solar System. The reason, according to NASA's page Scientists to Io: Your Volcanoes Are in the Wrong Place is believed ...
11
votes
3answers
555 views

Why are orbits elliptical instead of circular?

Why do planets rotate around a star in a specific elliptical orbit with the star at one of it's foci? Why isn't the orbit a circle?
11
votes
3answers
610 views

How old is our Sun in Galactic years?

A year is measured as the amount of time it takes Earth to orbit the Sun once, a Galactic year is the time it takes our sun to make one full orbit of the center of the Galaxy. In Galactic years, how ...
11
votes
3answers
761 views

Is there any point on earth where the moon stays below the horizon for an extended period of time?

When I was teaching a class why the earth has seasons today, I mentioned how the poles of the earth experience months of daylight and darkness. Then one of my students asked whether the moon ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

What if Earth and Moon revolved around each other like Pluto and Charon?

What would be different for us if Earth and Moon revolved around each other like Pluto and Charon do?
10
votes
4answers
2k views

How can we avoid needing a leap year/second?

Given the Earth's current speed around the sun and current rate & axis of rotation, what is the best way to keep time to avoid a leap year? How many hours should we have in the day and days in a ...
10
votes
7answers
3k views

Why doesn't Earth's axis change during the year?

My understanding is that the Earth's axis points in the same direction in space during its entire orbit around the sun. And this is what causes our seasons. My question is why doesn't the axis follow ...
10
votes
5answers
285 views

Orbiting around a black hole

Is it possible (for either a satellite or a planet) to orbit around a black hole? Do they attract everything around themselves into the center? Or they just affect gravitational force just like stars?
10
votes
2answers
615 views

Why is the Moon receding from the Earth due to tides? Is this typical for other moons?

After reading the Q&A Is the moon moving further away from Earth and closer to the Sun? Why? about the tides transferring energy to the Moon and pushing it from Earth, I have a question: How is ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is the solar system often shown as a 2D plane?

Whenever I have learned about the solar system I always see the orbits displayed as a virtually flat plane. Are all of the orbits in the solar system really like this? If so, why? It seems like a ...
10
votes
2answers
125 views

Do the orbits of planets change sometimes?

Do planets sometimes wobble and get off their paths? What if an asteroid were to hit it?
10
votes
1answer
114 views

Do planetary rings have geometric bounds?

Are there any bounds on where a planetary ring can form and maintain orbit relative to the planet? Do they have to be in a circular equatorial orbit? Is there a min or max altitude, say with respect ...
10
votes
2answers
121 views

How can the orbit of a Kuiper Belt Object be differentiated from the transit of a rogue planet?

Related to the question "Are any Pluto-sized objects remaining to be discovered in the Kuiper Belt?" and the fact that most of the Kuiper Belt objects have very elliptical orbits, the question begs, ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Why don't we have 2 Summers and 2 Winters?

Due to Earth's elliptical orbit, its distance from Sun varies by almost 5 million Kilometers (147 million Kilometers at closest point & 152 million Kilometers at farthest point, i.e. almost 3% of ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Does the gravity of the planets affect the orbit of other planets in our solar system?

When one planet passes near another during its trip around the sun, does their gravitational pull is strong enough to disrupt noticeably each other's orbit ?
9
votes
1answer
260 views

Is it possible for a moon to orbit a planet floating free in the galaxy rather than orbiting a star

This article got me thinking, can a planet hold a moon in orbit if it is just floating in the galaxy by itself not as part of a star system? Can a celestial body even qualify as a planet if it is ...
9
votes
1answer
647 views

Do all orbiting bodies eventually collide?

If two celestial bodies are in orbit, will they always eventually collide if not acted upon by outside forces?
9
votes
3answers
780 views

How does a gravity slingshot actually work?

From what I know of elliptical orbits, an object speeds up near the periapsis and slows down at the apoapsis, much like we learned in high school physics how a sphere would roll down and back up a ...
9
votes
1answer
196 views

Changes to Earth's orbit

Any time a spacecraft comes in close proximity to a planet and if the spacecraft has the right angle then it is able to use the planet's velocity to move itself further into space. According to ...
9
votes
1answer
3k views

Exercise: 2D orbital mechanics simulation (python)

Just a little disclaimer beforehand: I have never studied astronomy or any exact sciences for that matter (not even IT), so I am trying to fill this gap by self-education. Astronomy is one of the ...
9
votes
1answer
82 views

Is the Apophis asteroid a concern?

I was watching the TED lecture How to defend Earth from asteroids , and the speaker Phil Plait spoke of the possibility of this asteroid hitting Earth. Is this really a concern?
9
votes
1answer
465 views

Why does Pluto's Orbit underlap Neptune's Orbit

Why does Pluto's Orbit underlap inside of Neptunes Orbit. Clearly Neptunes Orbit is not overlapping on Pluto's. Yet, they fail to maintain the symmetric banding appearance all the other Planets ...
9
votes
1answer
353 views

Orbits in a binary star system

I know of three sets of stable orbits in a binary star system: orbiting closely around star A, orbiting closely around star B, or orbiting distantly around both stars (and their mutual center of ...
8
votes
3answers
331 views

Is the rotation of the Sun and the rotation/orbit of the Moon around the Earth a coincidence?

While looking at sunspot information in connection with Amateur Radio, I found that the Sun rotates on a period from 27 days to 31 days. Its rotation is differential, at the equator it spins at a ...
8
votes
2answers
205 views

Moon orbits crossing each other

Some planets, such as Mars, have 2 or more moons. Giants, like Jupiter of Saturn have a lot of moons! How likely the orbit of one crosses another one's orbit? Is it possible for two moons to collide? ...
8
votes
2answers
159 views

Is it possible for a moon to continuously have a side facing its star whilst orbiting a planet?

For example; is there any possibility for the moon to always have a side facing the Sun whilst orbiting Earth? And if so then what would the day cycle be like?
8
votes
5answers
927 views

When will all eight planets in our solar system align?

Ignoring expansion of the universe, entropy, decaying orbits, and interference from any bodies colliding with or otherwise interfering with their orbits, will the eight planets known planets in our ...
8
votes
1answer
143 views

What might cause a planet to have a significant tilt in their orbit?

Most of the planets in our solar system all orbit along the same plane, supposedly because of the almost flat dust clouds that formed the planets. But some planets, such as the one featured below, ...
8
votes
2answers
187 views

Lack of objects between heliopause and Oort cloud?

If we take a look at a logarithmic scale of the Solar System, there appears to be a large gap between the heliopause and the Oort cloud: Why is that? There are some objects in the gap, but why are ...
8
votes
1answer
225 views

Is Earth's orbital eccentricity enough to cause even minor seasons, without axial tilt?

I was reading the answers to this question about an exoplanet having seasons without axial tilt, and several responders mention that orbital eccentricity could cause a similar effect, but that the ...
8
votes
1answer
250 views

What is the current accepted hypothesis of what caused Triton's retrograde orbit around Neptune?

According to the NASA overview about Triton, this, the largest satellite of Neptune is unique in that it has a retrograde orbit around Neptune. The page also suggests that Triton is a captured Kuiper ...
8
votes
1answer
278 views

Explanation for the mathematics behind Venus' retrograde motion

I've always been interested by the pattern within Venus' orbit around the sun. I found this image and formula of its retrograde motion in the upper right hand corner which confused me. What does it ...
8
votes
1answer
371 views

Do stars of a galaxy change their positions relatively to each other?

Complete astronomy noob over here who would be happy if he get a simple answer (and who is also aware that this may be not possible)... I've learned from a tv documentary that the stars at the edge ...
7
votes
3answers
549 views

Can you explain the pattern of Hill sphere sizes of the objects of the Solar system?

I found this image on calculations of Hill sphere for planets/dwarf planets of the Solar system. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hill_sphere_of_the_planets.png I found it interesting that ...
7
votes
5answers
612 views

The Existence of Natural Satellites in Geostationary Orbits

While browsing through Physics SE, I noticed a question about satellites in geostationary orbit (unrelated to the one I'm asking here), and for a moment I interpreted it as referring to natural ...
7
votes
4answers
466 views

Are the stars in constellation located in a plane or they are in different distances

Are the stars in constellation located in a plane or they are in different distances from each other and when we observe them from the Earth we think they are all in a plane?
7
votes
2answers
248 views

How to calculate the movement of the object passing near other object in space?

Assume object A is moving through the space and is passing near the other object (B). Assume the gravitational influence of other objects can be ignored. How to find the equation describing the ...
7
votes
1answer
378 views

Does anyone know why three of Jupiter's largest moons orbit in 1:2:4 resonance?

Three of the first four moons ever discovered outside of our own planetary sphere of gravitational influence orbit in very close to perfect resonance. Europa's orbit is almost exactly twice as long as ...
7
votes
1answer
323 views

How can one explain the apparent motion of the Sun from a heliocentric point of view?

From a horizontal frame of reference, the path of the Sun looks like a part of a circle in a tilted plane, as shown in this picture:            &...
7
votes
0answers
142 views

Why are retrograde orbits more stable than prograde ones?

Regarding solar system dynamics, i.e. planets in stellar systems and moons in planetary systems, this is often mentioned in the literature, but it is difficult to find a good analysis/explanation of ...
6
votes
4answers
512 views

Does Sun have a reflection on Earth?

The new Google Maps1 presents an actual view of Earth, with the current position of Sun illuminating half part of Earth in real time. It is quite an exquisite view. My question is based on the ...
6
votes
2answers
755 views

When was the term “orbit” (in the modern sense) first used and by whom?

Wikipedia coyly suggests that some notions and views kept circulating (apparently since Adam and Eve) until finally Kepler, of all people, ... etc. I find this hard to believe. Please elucidate.