Elliptical orbits are the paths taken by objects as they fly around a massive object, such as the sun or Earth. Such orbits are not round as is commonly supposed; instead, they orbit the massive body in the shape of an ellipse. Ellipses are like circles that have been elongated slightly, and they are also referred to as ovals.Know More
Most astronomical objects orbit some body that it is more massive than it is. For example, the moon orbits the Earth, the Earth orbits the Sun, and the Sun orbits the galactic center. Each of these orbits take the form of an ellipse. Because these bodies do not travel in a perfect circle, they are not always the same distance from the center of their orbit or the object that they orbit. When an object is as close as it gets to the object it is orbiting, it is said to be at perihelion. By contrast, the farthest point of the ellipse from the body being orbited is called the aphelion. The orbiting object travels the fastest while it is close to the perihelion and slowest when it is at the aphelion.
Scientists classify orbits by the shape that they trace through space. Scientists use the term “eccentricity” to explain how round or oblong the orbit is. The higher the eccentricity, the more “squished” the orbit appears.Learn more about Astronomy
Io is the innermost Galilean moon of Jupiter and, as such, its distance from the Sun is determined by Jupiter's orbit. Jupiter orbits the Sun at distances that range from 741 million kilometers to 817 million kilometers.Full Answer >
The perigee is the closest the moon gets to Earth, while the apogee, on the opposite side of the moon's orbit, is the farthest away it moves from Earth. Perigee and apogee can be used to describe the orbits of other objects orbiting Earth, such as man-made satellites.Full Answer >
Meteor showers occur regularly as Earth's orbit takes it through areas of space debris. As the debris enters the atmosphere, heat causes it to burn up, resulting in the streaks of light that are commonly known as shooting stars. The debris itself is most often leftover material from comets, which leave debris paths as they orbit the sun.Full Answer >
Lunar and solar eclipses do not happen every month because the orbit of the moon and Earth are not on the same orbital plane. The moon's orbit has an incline of approximately 5 degrees in relation to the Earth's. This means that the moon, sun and Earth will not line up as often to create the conditions that are needed to create a lunar or solar eclipse.Full Answer >