Friday, August 23, 2002

Orbital mechanics

Orbits. Planets orbit the sun, moon(s) orbit the planets (well, some of them, anyway), man-made satellites orbit the earth (and occasionally Venus, Mars, the moon, etc.). So what's that about? Essentially, the two bodies (the orbiter and the orbited) are perpetually falling towards each other, but perpetually missing by moving past each other as well. From the outside, it would certainly appear that the earth isn't "moving past", say, the Space Shuttle, but even though the Shuttle's effect on the earth is incredibly small, the effect is still there. (Offset by 100,000 kids playing jumprope on the other side of the planet, perhaps, but still there.)

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