Questions tagged [orbital-mechanics]

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

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58
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Are there any stars that orbit perpendicular to the Milky Way's galactic plane?

Most stars orbit in the Milky Way's galactic disc. But is it possible for one to orbit perpendicular to it? Here on Earth since we're inside the galactic plane we can't get a good view of what the ...
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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 ...
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Why is the Moon's orbit so complicated?

I like to think I have a good enough understanding of astrophysics but there's still one thing that I just can't explain. Why does the Moon orbit the Earth the way it does? Many other moons in the ...
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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 ...
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If suddenly “knocked” or perturbed from its orbit, would gravity eventually return the Earth to its original orbit?

If suddenly "knocked" or perturbed from its orbit, would gravity eventually return the Earth to its original orbit? I am curious as to whether this is even possible. It seems to me that ...
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Does anything orbit the Sun faster than Mercury?

Mercury's orbital period around the Sun is about 88 days. Comets and other things have gotten closer to the Sun than Mercury does. But has there ever been an asteroid or some other body discovered ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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What are “non-Keplerian” orbits? What are some familiar examples in our solar system, and can some still be closed?

This excellent answer to Forms of stellar orbits around the galactic center invokes the following concepts: non-Keplerian orbits closed orbits I have a fairly good idea what these mean and so might ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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Can the paper narrowing Solar System's barycentre to within 100m help find Planet Nine?

I've just read this recent news article, Astronomers Have Located The Centre of The Solar System to Within 100 Metres, reporting on a paper[1] that claims narrowing the Solar System barycentre to ...
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1answer
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How does the gravitation of Jupiter or other big planets affect Kepler's third law?

Does anyone know a good reference for this? I once read how Jupiter's gravitation can be treated as a perturbation. I think they expanded Jupiter's gravitation as an infinite sum of one of the special ...
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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 ...
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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? ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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1answer
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How large were the deviations of Uranus's positon from predicted which led to the discovery of Neptune?

After Uranus was discovered and its orbit calculated, its future orbit was calculated, and its future positions as seen from Earth were calculated. And observers of Uranus began to notice that Uranus ...
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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 ? ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Comet Neowise c2020 f3 will return in ~6800 years, how can we be sure Earth will be in the right place to see it then?

I have read in several places that the orbital period of comet Neowise c2020 F3 is about 6800 years. In several popular media sources it is said that we will be able to see the same comet after ~6800 ...
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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? ...
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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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
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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
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1answer
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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Is the gravitational field of the sun uniform?

I understand that rocky bodies in the solar system all exhibit gravitational anomalies. Does the sun exhibit any gravitational anomalies? If so are they distinct enough that it effects the orbit of ...
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“Periapsis” or “Periastron”?

I was taught from Bate Mueller and White, that the proper terms for the closest and furthest points and distances from a body in orbit around another unspecified body are "periapsis" and &...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
489 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 ...
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1answer
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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?
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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Cannot identify mistake in calculating orbital eccentricity vector; magnitude equals one instead of zero (with python code)

I have a gravitational nbody simulation, for which I would like to determine various orbital parameters. For each body, I have 3-D vectors (x,y,z -space) for position, velocity, and acceleration. I am ...
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2answers
266 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 ...
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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 ...
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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?
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3answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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
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2answers
595 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 ...

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