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Name: Ekta
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1/9/2005


Question:
Planets attract bodies (ie satellites), by gravity originating from the center and pulling in all directions. Similarly, the solar system (and amazingly even the Milky-Way-type galaxies) follow the same thing, attracting bodies that all have orbits in pretty much the same plane. Why don't the orbits form in different planes or change planes? Does it have to do with the shape of the celestial bodies?


Replies:
Orbits can form in different planes. But if we think that the solar system or galaxy is formed from a spinning blob, it would tend to spin out all in the same plane, everything going around the center axis, the imaginary pole in the middle of the spinning. All the planets spin around the sun the same direction too, nobody is coming back the "wrong" way.

You can go from one orbital plane to another. But it takes quite a bit of energy. So when we launch rockets, we try to get to the plane we want straight away, not to another plane, then change. That "change" takes too much fuel. For example some weather satellites are sent up almost straight south, to be in a plane that goes about from north pole to south pole. Others are sent up almost straight east, to be in a plane almost above the equator. Once up, they would probably not have the fuel to visit each other, but it is possible, if they for some reason did carry enough.

Steve Ross



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