Elliptical Orbits: All You Need To Know

Elliptical Orbits: All You Need To Know

The planets tend to orbit around the Sun in what seems like circular or spherical shapes. However, most planets tend to have an elliptical orbit on which they course around the Sun. You can go through some important information about elliptical orbits here.

Elliptical Orbits: Short Summary

Elliptical orbits fall under the broader Kepler orbits, which have shapes like ellipses, straight lines, parabolas and hyperbolas. Elliptical orbits are of ellipse shape and tend to have an eccentricity that falls between 0 and 1.

Nearly all the planets in the solar system tend to have elliptical orbits, which makes them take on an oval and long shape. There can be a difference in the sizes and eccentricities of these elliptical orbits.

Apart from planets, many satellites also tend to follow elliptical orbits.

You can watch this video to get a better idea about elliptical orbits, especially those pertaining to the planets.

What Are Elliptical Orbits?

Elliptical orbits look like circular orbits, although their shapes are slightly more elongated as compared to perfectly spherical orbits. This also generally points towards negative orbital energy.

Elliptical orbits also tend to imply that there are some parts of the route or orbit that will place the body (such as a planet or a satellite) closer to the surface they are revolving around while others will place them farther away from it.

Based on how elliptical an orbit is, the total time taken to complete the orbit is likely to be different. Other factors like speed can also make a difference here.


Eccentricity In Elliptical Orbits

Eccentricity is the main way in which you can measure how flat or circular a given orbit is. In general, elliptical orbits tend to fall within the range of 0 and 1, with 0 being circular or spherical orbits and 1 being a radial elliptical orbit.

Thus, anything that includes figures between 0.001 and 1 (1 is included) implies an elliptical orbit. The planets revolving around the Sun fall within this range. Earth, for example, has an eccentricity of 0.01, while Mars has an eccentricity of 0.09.

Size Of Elliptical Orbits

How large or small the elliptical orbit is can depend on the major and minor axes of the ellipse. The major axis determines the longer or longest distance and the minor axis establishes the shortest distance.

This further gets divided into semi-major and semi-minor axes.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which Planet Has The Most Elliptical Orbit?

Mercury has the most elliptical orbit. Mercury’s eccentricity is 0.206.

Does Any Planet Have A Circular Orbit?

None of the planets have perfectly circular orbits, although Venus and Neptune come close. Their eccentricities are 0.007 and 0.009.

Conclusion and Summary

Elliptical orbits are oval-shaped orbits that help determine the route of a certain body. Most commonly, the planets in the solar system are referred to as having elliptical orbits around the Sun. The size and extent of the ellipse are established on the basis of the axis and the eccentricity.

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