Thursday, April 8, 2010

More on orbits

If you spent any time playing with the model solar system I mentioned awhile back, then here's a challenge for you: see if you can get it to do what two moons of Saturn do.


James Hanley said...

Switching orbits? Geez, in that simulation, any time my two moons got close to each other one got kicked out of orbit completely and flew off into space. So how amazing is it that they actually switch orbits regularly?

Scott Hanley said...

There seems to be a tendency for closely-related objects to fall into some sort of synchronicity. An example would be the way that the rotation of the moon has been tugged until it perfectly matches its orbit around the Earth; that's why we only see the same face at all times. I think Venus and Mercury do the same with the sun, being even more heavily affected than is the Earth. As I understand the article, this close interaction seems to suggest that the two objects have always been closely related to one another.

That slingshot effect, by the say, is exactly what NASA maneuvers for when they launch probes toward the outer planets. Otherwise we could never launch a rocket with enough speed to get there in one lifetime.