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

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30
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6answers
2k 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?
18
votes
3answers
715 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?
13
votes
2answers
3k 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
2answers
286 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
229 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 ...
11
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 ...
11
votes
1answer
196 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
9
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
9
votes
5answers
205 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? ...
9
votes
3answers
394 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?
9
votes
2answers
285 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
181 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 ...
8
votes
6answers
765 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
132 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
3answers
257 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
239 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
165 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
92 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?
8
votes
1answer
80 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
69 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
85 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, ...
7
votes
1answer
172 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
526 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
75 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, ...
7
votes
1answer
111 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
141 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
188 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
1answer
260 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
400 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?
6
votes
3answers
221 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
129 views

Why are some planets so close to their star?

"Kepler-10b orbits its parent star once every 0.84 days, which means it is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun" space.com Are there any accepted theories that ...
6
votes
5answers
252 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
522 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
48 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?
6
votes
1answer
86 views

What determines the configuration of orbits in a binary system?

There are essentially two configurations of orbits a system with two bodies can have: A configuration where the paths do not cross: A configuation where the paths cross: Note: Size of the ...
6
votes
1answer
137 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
209 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
696 views

Calculate angle of inclination for a certain angle in a planet's orbit?

The background is that I'm trying to write a computer program to show at what angles each planet would be able to be seen transiting in front of the sun from an observer outside our solar system. My ...
5
votes
4answers
659 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 ?
5
votes
3answers
127 views

Is there a ceiling for stable L4 or L5 masses?

L4 and L5, the Lagrange points 60 degrees leading and trailing an orbiting body, are famous for being stable. A well known example are the Trojan aseroids at the Sun Jupiter L4 and L5. Nodding to ...
5
votes
2answers
177 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
115 views

How do you calculate the effects of precession on elliptical orbits?

Kepler's first law states that planets (and all celestial bodies orbiting another body) travel in elliptical orbits, which have well-known formulas that make it relatively easy to calculate the ...
5
votes
1answer
577 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
178 views

What is the difference between Sphere of Influence and Hill sphere?

Wikipedia's definition of Hill sphere is: An astronomical body's Hill sphere is the region in which it dominates the attraction of satellites. To be retained by a planet, a moon must have an orbit ...
5
votes
1answer
101 views

How to compute satellite coordinates (lat,long) given antenna's coordinates, angles and satellite height

Given an Earth station (antenna) coordinates (in lat,long) ant its Elevation (El) and Azimuth (Az), how to compute the satellite coordinates (lat,long), known its height? For simplification purposes, ...
4
votes
2answers
412 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
133 views

What is the correct ratio of Newtonian to General Relativistic gravitational effects for Sun + single planet orbital system

For a hypothetical orbital system (Sun + single planet) the Newtonian model and the General Relativity (GR) model produce different expressions for the gravitational effect of the Sun on the planet. ...
4
votes
2answers
253 views

How did Kepler determine the orbital period of Mars?

As I understand it, Kepler used the orbital period of Mars, along with observational data of Mars' and the sun's position in the sky to derive the orbits of Earth and Mars. (As described, here: ...
4
votes
2answers
326 views

What mechanism causes oscillations of the solar system's orbit about the galactic plane?

In a recent paper (news release here) Lisa Randall and Matthew Reece propose that a dark matter disk coinciding with the galactic plane together with the solar system's oscillations through the ...