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A non-inclined orbit is an orbit coplanar with a plane of reference. The orbital inclination is 0° for prograde orbits, and π (180°) for retrograde ones. If the plane of reference is a massive spheroid body's equatorial plane, these orbits are called equatorial; if the plane of reference is the ecliptic plane, they are called ecliptic.
As these orbits lack nodes, the ascending node is usually taken to lie in the reference direction (usually the vernal equinox), and thus the longitude of the ascending node is taken to be zero. Also, the argument of periapsis is undefined.
Geostationary orbit is a geosynchronous example of an equatorial orbit.
The ecliptic is the plane of Earth's orbit around the Sun. From the perspective of an observer on Earth, the Sun's movement around the celestial sphere over the course of a year traces out a path along the ecliptic against the background of stars. The ecliptic is an important reference plane and is the basis of the ecliptic coordinate system.
The ecliptic coordinate system is a celestial coordinate system commonly used for representing the apparent positions and orbits of Solar System objects. Because most planets and many small Solar System bodies have orbits with only slight inclinations to the ecliptic, using it as the fundamental plane is convenient. The system's origin can be the center of either the Sun or Earth, its primary direction is towards the vernal (March) equinox, and it has a right-hand convention. It may be implemented in spherical or rectangular coordinates.
Orbital inclination measures the tilt of an object's orbit around a celestial body. It is expressed as the angle between a reference plane and the orbital plane or axis of direction of the orbiting object.
Orbital elements are the parameters required to uniquely identify a specific orbit. In celestial mechanics these elements are considered in two-body systems using a Kepler orbit. There are many different ways to mathematically describe the same orbit, but certain schemes, each consisting of a set of six parameters, are commonly used in astronomy and orbital mechanics.
The orbital period is the time a given astronomical object takes to complete one orbit around another object, and applies in astronomy usually to planets or asteroids orbiting the Sun, moons orbiting planets, exoplanets orbiting other stars, or binary stars.
A lunar node is either of the two orbital nodes of the Moon, that is, the two points at which the orbit of the Moon intersects the ecliptic. The ascending node is where the Moon moves into the northern ecliptic hemisphere, while the descending node is where the Moon enters the southern ecliptic hemisphere.
A wet moon is the visual phenomenon when the "horns" of the crescent Moon point up at an angle, away from the horizon, so that the crescent takes on the appearance of a bowl or smile. A wet moon occurs when the crescent Moon is low above the horizon and at a point more or less directly above the Sun's (invisible) position below the horizon. This in turn is determined by the positions of the Moon and Earth in their respective orbits, the inclinations of these orbits relative to one another and to Earth's celestial equator, and the observer's latitude on Earth. Wet moons occur routinely in the tropics, but rarely in the polar regions.
The longitude of the ascending node is one of the orbital elements used to specify the orbit of an object in space. It is the angle from a specified reference direction, called the origin of longitude, to the direction of the ascending node, as measured in a specified reference plane. The ascending node is the point where the orbit of the object passes through the plane of reference, as seen in the adjacent image. Commonly used reference planes and origins of longitude include:
The argument of periapsis, symbolized as ω, is one of the orbital elements of an orbiting body. Parametrically, ω is the angle from the body's ascending node to its periapsis, measured in the direction of motion.
In celestial mechanics, the longitude of the periapsis, also called longitude of the pericenter, of an orbiting body is the longitude at which the periapsis would occur if the body's orbit inclination were zero. It is usually denoted ϖ.
Mean longitude is the ecliptic longitude at which an orbiting body could be found if its orbit were circular and free of perturbations. While nominally a simple longitude, in practice the mean longitude does not correspond to any one physical angle.
An orbital node is either of the two points where an orbit intersects a plane of reference to which it is inclined. A non-inclined orbit, which is contained in the reference plane, has no nodes.
In celestial mechanics, the plane of reference is the plane used to define orbital elements (positions). The two main orbital elements that are measured with respect to the plane of reference are the inclination and the longitude of the ascending node.
The orbital plane of a revolving body is the geometric plane in which its orbit lies. Three non-collinear points in space suffice to determine an orbital plane. A common example would be the positions of the centers of a massive body (host) and of an orbiting celestial body at two different times/points of its orbit.
An orbital pole is either point at the ends of an imaginary line segment that runs through the center of an orbit and is perpendicular to the orbital plane. Projected onto the celestial sphere, orbital poles are similar in concept to celestial poles, but are based on the body's orbit instead of its equator.
The Moon orbits Earth in the prograde direction and completes one revolution relative to the Vernal Equinox and the stars in about 27.32 days and one revolution relative to the Sun in about 29.53 days. Earth and the Moon orbit about their barycentre, which lies about 4,600 km (2,900 mi) from Earth's center. On average, the distance to the Moon is about 385,000 km (239,000 mi) from Earth's center, which corresponds to about 60 Earth radii or 1.282 light-seconds.
Earth-centered inertial (ECI) coordinate frames have their origins at the center of mass of Earth and are fixed with respect to the stars. "I" in "ECI" stands for inertial, in contrast to the "Earth-centered - Earth-fixed" (ECEF) frames, which rotate with respect to stars.
This glossary of astronomy is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to astronomy and cosmology, their sub-disciplines, and related fields. Astronomy is concerned with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth. The field of astronomy features an extensive vocabulary and a significant amount of jargon.
In lunar calendars, a lunar month is the time between two successive syzygies of the same type: new moons or full moons. The precise definition varies, especially for the beginning of the month.
Astronomical nutation is a phenomenon which causes the orientation of the axis of rotation of a spinning astronomical object to vary over time. It is caused by the gravitational forces of other nearby bodies acting upon the spinning object. Although they are caused by the same effect operating over different timescales, astronomers usually make a distinction between precession, which is a steady long-term change in the axis of rotation, and nutation, which is the combined effect of similar shorter-term variations.