Questions tagged [orbital-mechanics]

The application of ballistics and celestial mechanics to the practical problems concerning the motion of rockets and other spacecraft.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
55
votes
1answer
8k views

Why is the asteroid belt shaped like a triangle?

So, in this question, the user JollyJoker posted this image depicting the orbits of the asteroids in the asteroid field in the comments: [ In this image, you can see that while the individual ...
35
votes
3answers
614 views

If you lived on the far side of the Moon, how could you infer the existence of Earth?

Suppose that you deposit an astronomer, armed with our current knowledge of orbital mechanics, on a dome on the far side of the Moon, so that the Earth is perpetually hidden from them. (And, of ...
23
votes
5answers
7k views

Is Io a magic energy machine?

Io gets its volcanic heat from being flexed by Jupiter's gravity, and this seems to go on forever. That sounds like a magic energy source, since Jovian gravity is perpetual and Io seems to remain in ...
19
votes
4answers
8k views

Would an object shot from earth fall into the sun?

Would an object shot from earth fall into the sun? If an object is shot at 107,000 km/h via rocket or otherwise, in the opposite direction to our orbit about the sun, it will be traveling at 0 km/h ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Why does the closest approach of star S2 to Sgr A* not appear to be near the focus of its elliptical orbit?

Phys.org's Very Large Telescope sees star dance around supermassive black hole, proves Einstein right links to several ESO videos, including The star S2 makes a close approach to the black hole at the ...
14
votes
1answer
127 views

Why are asteroids with zero orbital inclination rare?

This is a plot of orbital inclination ($i_p$) vs. semi-major axis ($a_p$) of 96944 asteroids in the Main Belt, done by Piotr Deuar. Some structure can be seen in this diagram; clumps are asteroidal ...
13
votes
2answers
600 views

How can tidal heating lower Io's orbit?

This answer to the question Is Io a magic energy machine? suggests that the energy from the internal heating of Io due to tidal "squishing" as it moves cyclically closer and farther from Jupiter in ...
11
votes
4answers
9k views

Is Earth's Surface “In orbit”?

I'm having trouble understanding relative angular/tangential speeds at increasing altitudes above Earth's surface. In particular, I find this comparison of tangential velocities on Wikipedia very ...
11
votes
5answers
20k views

Is the Sun in our solar system moving or stationary?

When I was small, I read that Sun is fixed at the center of the solar system and that all the other planets rotate around it. But later I heard that even the Sun is not fixed; it moves. Is this true? ...
11
votes
1answer
1k views

Why does the Earth's orbital eccentricity oscillate with a period of about 100,000 years?

This answer says: Earth's orbital eccentricity varies over time from being nearly circular (low eccentricity of 0.0034) and mildly elliptical (high eccentricity of 0.058). It takes roughly 100,000 ...
11
votes
1answer
398 views

Are the Trappist-1 planets in stable orbits?

The Trappist-1 planets all orbit very close to each other. During NASA's press release, they mentioned that these planets are close enough to disturb each others orbits. Is this system stable over a ...
10
votes
4answers
267 views

Why is there no concavity in the orbit of the moon around the Sun?

Such questions have been asked here and I have read the answers some of which are quite informative. However, I want an answer that's straightforward. I have gone through the following paper by A B ...
10
votes
2answers
135 views

How do we know that an exoplanet is tidally locked to the parent star?

Often in discussing exoplanets we hear that they are close to the parent star (usually a red dwarf) but then there's a caveat that the planet is tidally locked to that star and that that fact severely ...
10
votes
1answer
363 views

Are the orbits of all triple star systems at least technically unstable?

Background: In the Circular Restricted Three Body Problem (CR3BP, CRTBP) some halo orbits are mathematically stable. That means that the orbit of the third body is closed, periodic, and stable ...
10
votes
2answers
539 views

How do I know, mathematically rather than from observation, if a moon is full?

I know about the equations to describe the orbit of a moon around a planet. I know the moon's semi-major axis and eccentricity, and the same for its host world with the star they orbit. Is there any ...
10
votes
1answer
60 views

Determining the area of Lagrange Points

I have looked into Lagrange points a decent amount and I see many images that show the L4 and L5 locations as wide sweeping areas. Jupiter's Trojan asteroids are a good example of this. As well, L3 ...
10
votes
0answers
303 views

What are Kepler's laws (as he wrote them)?

There are of course many, many sources that quote Kepler's laws of planetary motion. This is preventing me from finding out what I really want to know: which is - what are Kepler's laws as he wrote ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do certain moons have their rotational period equal to their orbital period?

Our moon and Saturn's moon, Titan, have this feature. Because of this we only observe one side (hemispere) of our moon. Why is this? What is the Newtonian or astrophysics that would explain this? ...
9
votes
1answer
315 views

Why is Neptune true anomaly decreasing?

So I've been having fun with trying to determine where the perihelia of different planets are (using JPL Horizons). And by the time I got to Saturn, something weird started happening. I've noticed ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does the Parker Solar Probe slow down as the distance from the Sun increases?

Why does the Parker Solar Probe slow down as the distance from the Sun increases? Image credit: Wikipedia user Phoenix777, CC BY-SA 4.0
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Can a bullet be fired on the moon and sent it into orbit?

I know you need oxygen for the ignition, but presumably, if the bullet is impervious (or water-tight) and if there is a little air enclosed in the bullet case, wouldn't that be sufficient to fire it ? ...
8
votes
1answer
376 views

What is the shape (along the plane, not up-down) of stellar orbits in flat spiral galaxies

What I mean is, with a central mass orbits are relatively simple, but orbits around the galaxy are different, in essence as the star orbits through the dark matter halo, the further it moves away from ...
8
votes
2answers
357 views

Eventual outcome of tidal acceleration and deceleration

So, I know the Moon experiences tidal acceleration from the Earth. And, from what I've read, if not for the fact that the sun would boil away the oceans and engulf both of them first, about 50 billion ...
8
votes
2answers
245 views

How long is a “lunar month” in Jupiter?

For Earth, the lunar month is well known. But Earth has only one moon. But on Jupiter, how long does it takes for the same moon configuration to appear in the "sky" of the planet? For the sake of ...
8
votes
0answers
128 views

How does the gravitation of Jupiter or other big planets affect Kepler's third law?

Does anyone know any good reference on this? I remember reading once about how Jupiter's gravitation can be treated as a perturbation, but I cannot find it again now. I think they expanded Jupiter's ...
7
votes
2answers
460 views

Why do particles from a comet that result in meteor showers spread out mostly along the comet's orbit?

My understanding of the meteor showers that repeat yearly is that the Earth passes through the orbit of a comet that is nowhere near us, and might not even exist anymore, yet it's orbit is filled with ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Why isn't Earth tidally locked to the sun?

Given that the moon has long been tidally locked with the Earth, why isn't Earth (or any of our other solar system's planets) tidally locked to the sun?
6
votes
1answer
145 views

Kepler's equation and eccentric anomaly

From the wiki article about eccentric anomaly follows: $$\cos E = \frac{x}{a}$$ $$\sin E = \frac{y}{b}$$ where E - eccentric anomaly, a - semi-major axis, b - semi-minor axis, P = P(x,y) a point on ...
6
votes
2answers
128 views

horseshoe orbits

I'm designing a moon system for a fictional setting, and recently came across the idea of horseshoe orbits. The gist of my question is how many objects can share a horseshoe orbital at a time? I ...
6
votes
1answer
463 views

Effects of the solar tide on planets

It’s well known that (lunar) tides on Earth result in a transfer of angular momentum from Earth proper to the Earth–Moon orbital motion. That’s why the Moon resides now in a high Earth orbit, and ...
6
votes
2answers
236 views

How can Earth-Sun Lagrange points L1 & L2 even be semi stable considering the moon?

I know that the Earth-Sun Lagrange L1, L2, and L3 points are not considered stable over longer periods, especially when compared to L4 and L5... But, with the moon orbiting the Earth in the general ...
6
votes
0answers
199 views

When the Moon formed and early on, did it orbit over the Earth's equator?

Or was it always at about 5.14 degrees inclination or has the inclination changed over time? See diagram. James K's answer to this question got me thinking about this, and I don't mean to call him ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Could the barycenter orbit of our sun be greatly underestimated?

The radius of the suns orbit around the barycenter of the solar system is often measured to be roughly the radius of the sun. Based on the same type of bias that has made humans miss things about ...
5
votes
3answers
915 views

Calculate Earth's distance travelled in a year

This is probably more of a math question than astronomy, but I'd like to know the distance the Earth travels in one revolution around the sun (i.e. a year). According to the data in Wikipedia, I ...
5
votes
2answers
5k views

What defines a stable orbit?

While looking for a way to prolong an orbit via moon power I was faced with the parameters of what would be a stable orbit by length of time an object stayed in orbit, What is the definition of a ...
5
votes
2answers
83 views

Scientific possibility of stationary moons for a writer of fiction

I tried to do some research to find an answer for this question before posting this but didn't find anything that I could sink my teeth into. I was wondering: if it would be possible for a planet to ...
5
votes
2answers
558 views

How do tadpole, horseshoe co-orbital states arise and how are they stable?

A recent paper in Nature "Planetary science: Reckless orbiting in the Solar System" (Morais & Namouni, 2017) presents the following series of four co-orbital states: While I understand the ...
5
votes
1answer
271 views

Can Eight Retrograde (seen from Earth) planets occur?

First of all, for the purposes of this question Pluto is a planet. So the eight planets being considered are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. My question is: can all ...
5
votes
2answers
193 views

What variables are needed to calculate simple horseshoe orbit times?

EDIT This was NOT a duplicate of Horseshoe orbit cycle times. But that other question has been deleted, regardless. My original question asked for the answer to the equation(s), and provides many of ...
5
votes
1answer
113 views

Is there a verification of the solar system barycenter as it is theoretically determined?

The barycenter of our solar system is not the sun, but a changeable location outside of the center point of the sun. A often used diagram of that relation is shown below, originated from the Wikipedia ...
5
votes
1answer
199 views

What stabilizes rings or accretion disks?

We think, more or less, that our Moon was formed from an accretion disk caused by a Mars-sized impactor. Cool. Tidal forces can break apart a moon, causing rings. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust: the ...
5
votes
1answer
139 views

Planetary phase angle of Hohmann transfer

This is Question 23 from USAAAO First Round 2015. The answer is D. Can someone show how to get the answer? Calculate the planetary phase angle (counterclockwise from Earth, a = 1.0 AU) that a ...
5
votes
1answer
65 views

How far from the Sun can an Earth TCO (temporarily captured orbiter) go after leaving?

Objects which are temporarily captured into an Earth-Moon system orbit (temporarily captured orbiters or TCOs) by definition will leave this orbit. While the term suggest an Earth orbit, it's really ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Can you create an orbit in a space station using balls?

Would it be possible to spin a ball in a space station, and for it to create its own orbit for a smaller ball to rotate around it?
4
votes
1answer
333 views

Orbits using Newtons laws

I am making a small orbit simulator. I figured out Kepler's laws and know how to work with them to "update" an orbit based on time. So now I want to know how I can describe orbits with newton laws. ...
4
votes
1answer
125 views

How do a planet's moons and a planet's rings interact?

I am making a video game which features a planet and its moon. And I thought I would add rings too. But that got me wondering... how do a planet's moon and a planet's ring influence each other? Does ...
4
votes
1answer
167 views

How feasible would it be to get to a planet orbiting directly opposite Earth?

Imagine that in addition to Earth, there was a second planet, say of one Earth mass, orbiting the sun - but on the opposite side of the Sun, and at the same orbital radius. My question is - given ...
4
votes
1answer
117 views

Would two Earth-like planets on opposite sides of a Sol-like star at about 1 AU be a stable configuration?

Would two Earth-like planets on opposite sides of a Sol-like star at about 1 AU be a relatively stable configuration? I understand that there are tadpole-like orbits and the two planets may not stay ...
4
votes
1answer
144 views

Calculating obital velocity from radial velocity

I'm not really a physicist so I don't know if it's possible to get the real orbital velocity of a star from its radial velocity. I'm working on a paper for school and I want to get the mean velocity ...
4
votes
2answers
133 views

Can a solar system exist where the second planet rotates fast, and the third planet is tidally locked to their star?

Today I read about the Romulan home star system and it looks like it might be impossible for such a star system to exist. Memory Alpha describes Remus: Remus was tidally locked, with one ...