Orbital speed

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In gravitationally bound systems, the orbital speed of an astronomical body or object (e.g. planet, moon, artificial satellite, spacecraft, or star) is the speed at which it orbits around either the barycenter or, if one object is much more massive than the other bodies in the system, its speed relative to the center of mass of the most massive body.

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The term can be used to refer to either the mean orbital speed, i.e. the average speed over an entire orbit, or its instantaneous speed at a particular point in its orbit. Maximum (instantaneous) orbital speed occurs at periapsis (perigee, perihelion, etc.), while minimum speed for objects in closed orbits occurs at apoapsis (apogee, aphelion, etc.). In ideal two-body systems, objects in open orbits continue to slow down forever as their distance to the barycenter increases.

When a system approximates a two-body system, instantaneous orbital speed at a given point of the orbit can be computed from its distance to the central body and the object's specific orbital energy, sometimes called "total energy". Specific orbital energy is constant and independent of position. [1]

Radial trajectories

In the following, it is thought that the system is a two-body system and the orbiting object has a negligible mass compared to the larger (central) object. In real-world orbital mechanics, it is the system's barycenter, not the larger object, which is at the focus.

Specific orbital energy, or total energy, is equal to Ek  Ep. (kinetic energy  potential energy). The sign of the result may be positive, zero, or negative and the sign tells us something about the type of orbit: [1]

Transverse orbital speed

The transverse orbital speed is inversely proportional to the distance to the central body because of the law of conservation of angular momentum, or equivalently, Kepler's second law. This states that as a body moves around its orbit during a fixed amount of time, the line from the barycenter to the body sweeps a constant area of the orbital plane, regardless of which part of its orbit the body traces during that period of time. [2]

This law implies that the body moves slower near its apoapsis than near its periapsis, because at the smaller distance along the arc it needs to move faster to cover the same area. [1]

Mean orbital speed

For orbits with small eccentricity , the length of the orbit is close to that of a circular one, and the mean orbital speed can be approximated either from observations of the orbital period and the semimajor axis of its orbit, or from knowledge of the masses of the two bodies and the semimajor axis. [3]

where v is the orbital velocity, a is the length of the semimajor axis, T is the orbital period, and μ = GM is the standard gravitational parameter. This is an approximation that only holds true when the orbiting body is of considerably lesser mass than the central one, and eccentricity is close to zero.

When one of the bodies is not of considerably lesser mass see: Gravitational two-body problem

So, when one of the masses is almost negligible compared to the other mass, as the case for Earth and Sun, one can approximate the orbit velocity as: [1]

or assuming r equal to the radius of the orbit[ citation needed ]

Where M is the (greater) mass around which this negligible mass or body is orbiting, and ve is the escape velocity.

For an object in an eccentric orbit orbiting a much larger body, the length of the orbit decreases with orbital eccentricity e, and is an ellipse. This can be used to obtain a more accurate estimate of the average orbital speed: [4]

The mean orbital speed decreases with eccentricity.

Instantaneous orbital speed

For the instantaneous orbital speed of a body at any given point in its trajectory, both the mean distance and the instantaneous distance are taken into account:

where μ is the standard gravitational parameter of the orbited body, r is the distance at which the speed is to be calculated, and a is the length of the semi-major axis of the elliptical orbit. This expression is called the vis-viva equation. [1]

For the Earth at perihelion, the value is:

which is slightly faster than Earth's average orbital speed of 29,800 m/s (67,000 mph), as expected from Kepler's 2nd Law.

Tangential velocities at altitude

Orbit Center-to-center
distance
Altitude above
the Earth's surface
Speed Orbital period Specific orbital energy
Earth's own rotation at surface (for comparison— not an orbit)6,378 km0 km 465.1 m/s (1,674 km/h or 1,040 mph)23 h 56 min 4.09 sec−62.6 MJ/kg
Orbiting at Earth's surface (equator) theoretical6,378 km0 km7.9 km/s (28,440 km/h or 17,672 mph)1 h 24 min 18 sec−31.2 MJ/kg
Low Earth orbit 6,600–8,400 km200–2,000 km
  • Circular orbit: 6.9–7.8 km/s (24,840–28,080 km/h or 14,430–17,450 mph) respectively
  • Elliptic orbit: 6.5–8.2 km/s respectively
1 h 29 min – 2 h 8 min−29.8 MJ/kg
Molniya orbit 6,900–46,300 km500–39,900 km1.5–10.0 km/s (5,400–36,000 km/h or 3,335–22,370 mph) respectively11 h 58 min−4.7 MJ/kg
Geostationary 42,000 km35,786 km3.1 km/s (11,600 km/h or 6,935 mph)23 h 56 min 4.09 sec−4.6 MJ/kg
Orbit of the Moon 363,000–406,000 km357,000–399,000 km0.97–1.08 km/s (3,492–3,888 km/h or 2,170–2,416 mph) respectively27.27 days−0.5 MJ/kg
The lower axis gives orbital speeds of some orbits Comparison satellite navigation orbits.svg
The lower axis gives orbital speeds of some orbits

Planets

The closer an object is to the Sun the faster it needs to move to maintain the orbit. Objects move fastest at perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) and slowest at aphelion (furthest distance from the Sun). Since planets in the Solar System are in nearly circular orbits their individual orbital velocities do not vary much. Being closest to the Sun and having the most eccentric orbit, Mercury's orbital speed varies from about 59 km/s at perihelion to 39 km/s at aphelion. [5]

Orbital velocities of the Planets [6]
PlanetOrbital
velocity
Mercury 47.9 km/s
Venus 35.0 km/s
Earth 29.8 km/s
Mars 24.1 km/s
Jupiter 13.1 km/s
Saturn 9.7 km/s
Uranus 6.8 km/s
Neptune 5.4 km/s


Halley's Comet on an eccentric orbit that reaches beyond Neptune will be moving 54.6 km/s when 0.586  AU (87,700 thousand  km ) from the Sun, 41.5 km/s when 1 AU from the Sun (passing Earth's orbit), and roughly 1 km/s at aphelion 35 AU (5.2 billion km) from the Sun. [7] Objects passing Earth's orbit going faster than 42.1 km/s have achieved escape velocity and will be ejected from the Solar System if not slowed down by a gravitational interaction with a planet.

Velocities of better-known numbered objects that have perihelion close to the Sun
ObjectVelocity at perihelionVelocity at 1 AU
(passing Earth's orbit)
322P/SOHO 181 km/s @ 0.0537 AU37.7 km/s
96P/Machholz 118 km/s @ 0.124 AU38.5 km/s
3200 Phaethon 109 km/s @ 0.140 AU32.7 km/s
1566 Icarus 93.1 km/s @ 0.187 AU30.9 km/s
66391 Moshup 86.5 km/s @ 0.200 AU19.8 km/s
1P/Halley 54.6 km/s @ 0.586 AU41.5 km/s

See also

Related Research Articles

Orbit Gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in outer space

In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet. Normally, orbit refers to a regularly repeating trajectory, although it may also refer to a non-repeating trajectory. To a close approximation, planets and satellites follow elliptic orbits, with the center of mass being orbited at a focal point of the ellipse, as described by Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

Escape velocity Concept in celestial mechanics

In physics, escape velocity is the minimum speed needed for a free, non-propelled object to escape from the gravitational influence of a massive body, thus reaching an infinite distance from it. Escape velocity rises with the body's mass and falls with the escaping object's distance from its center. The escape velocity thus depends on how far the object has already traveled, and its calculation at a given distance takes into account the fact that without new acceleration it will slow down as it travels—due to the massive body's gravity—but it will never quite slow to a stop.

Apsis Either of two extreme points in an objects orbit

An apsis is the farthest or nearest point in the orbit of a planetary body about its primary body. The apsides of Earth's orbit of the Sun are two: the aphelion, where Earth is farthest from the sun, and the perihelion, where it is nearest. "Apsides" can also refer to the distance of the extreme range of an object orbiting a host body.

Orbital period Time an astronomical object takes to complete one orbit around another object

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.

Hohmann transfer orbit Elliptical orbit used to transfer between two orbits of different altitudes, in the same plane

In orbital mechanics, the Hohmann transfer orbit is an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits of different radii around a central body in the same plane. The Hohmann transfer often uses the lowest possible amount of propellant in traveling between these orbits, but bi-elliptic transfers can use less in some cases.

Orbital mechanics Field of classical mechanics concerned with the motion of spacecraft

Orbital mechanics or astrodynamics is the application of ballistics and celestial mechanics to the practical problems concerning the motion of rockets and other spacecraft. The motion of these objects is usually calculated from Newton's laws of motion and law of universal gravitation. Orbital mechanics is a core discipline within space-mission design and control.

Orbital decay

In orbital mechanics, orbitaldecay is a gradual decrease of the distance between two orbiting bodies at their closest approach over many orbital periods. These orbiting bodies can be a planet and its satellite, a star and any object orbiting it, or components of any binary system. Orbits do not decay without some friction-like mechanism which transfers energy from the orbital motion. This can be any of a number of mechanical, gravitational, or electromagnetic effects. For bodies in low Earth orbit, the most significant effect is atmospheric drag.

Earths orbit Trajectory of Earth around the Sun

Earth orbits the Sun at an average distance of 149.60 million km ,, in a counterclockwise pattern viewed above the northern hemisphere. One complete orbit takes 365.256 days, during which time Earth has traveled 940 million km. Ignoring the influence of other solar system bodies, Earth's orbit is an ellipse with the Earth-Sun barycenter as one focus and a current eccentricity of 0.0167; since this value is close to zero, the center of the orbit is close, relative to the size of the orbit, to the center of the Sun.

Parabolic trajectory

In astrodynamics or celestial mechanics a parabolic trajectory is a Kepler orbit with the eccentricity equal to 1 and is an unbound orbit that is exactly on the border between elliptical and hyperbolic. When moving away from the source it is called an escape orbit, otherwise a capture orbit. It is also sometimes referred to as a C3 = 0 orbit (see Characteristic energy).

Hyperbolic trajectory

In astrodynamics or celestial mechanics, a hyperbolic trajectory is the trajectory of any object around a central body with more than enough speed to escape the central object's gravitational pull. The name derives from the fact that according to Newtonian theory such an orbit has the shape of a hyperbola. In more technical terms this can be expressed by the condition that the orbital eccentricity is greater than one.

Elliptic orbit Kepler orbit with an eccentricity of less than one

In astrodynamics or celestial mechanics, an elliptic orbit or elliptical orbit is a Kepler orbit with an eccentricity of less than 1; this includes the special case of a circular orbit, with eccentricity equal to 0. In a stricter sense, it is a Kepler orbit with the eccentricity greater than 0 and less than 1. In a wider sense, it is a Kepler's orbit with negative energy. This includes the radial elliptic orbit, with eccentricity equal to 1.

Circular orbit Orbit with a fixed distance from the barycenter

A circular orbit is an orbit with a fixed distance around the barycenter; that is, in the shape of a circle.

Specific orbital energy

In the gravitational two-body problem, the specific orbital energy of two orbiting bodies is the constant sum of their mutual potential energy and their total kinetic energy, divided by the reduced mass. According to the orbital energy conservation equation, it does not vary with time:

In astrodynamics an orbit equation defines the path of orbiting body around central body relative to , without specifying position as a function of time. Under standard assumptions, a body moving under the influence of a force, directed to a central body, with a magnitude inversely proportional to the square of the distance, has an orbit that is a conic section with the central body located at one of the two foci, or the focus.

Orbital eccentricity Amount by which an orbit deviates from a perfect circle

In astrodynamics, the orbital eccentricity of an astronomical object is a dimensionless parameter that determines the amount by which its orbit around another body deviates from a perfect circle. A value of 0 is a circular orbit, values between 0 and 1 form an elliptic orbit, 1 is a parabolic escape orbit, and greater than 1 is a hyperbola. The term derives its name from the parameters of conic sections, as every Kepler orbit is a conic section. It is normally used for the isolated two-body problem, but extensions exist for objects following a rosette orbit through the galaxy.

Flight dynamics (spacecraft) Application of mechanical dynamics to model the flight of space vehicles

Spacecraft flight dynamics is the application of mechanical dynamics to model how the external forces acting on a space vehicle or spacecraft determine its flight path. These forces are primarily of three types: propulsive force provided by the vehicle's engines; gravitational force exerted by the Earth and other celestial bodies; and aerodynamic lift and drag.

Tisserand's criterion is used to determine whether or not an observed orbiting body, such as a comet or an asteroid, is the same as a previously observed orbiting body.

Two-body problem in general relativity Interaction of two bodies in general relativity

The two-body problem in general relativity is the determination of the motion and gravitational field of two bodies as described by the field equations of general relativity. Solving the Kepler problem is essential to calculate the bending of light by gravity and the motion of a planet orbiting its sun. Solutions are also used to describe the motion of binary stars around each other, and estimate their gradual loss of energy through gravitational radiation.

Semi-major and semi-minor axes Term in geometry; longest and shortest semidiameters of an ellipse

In geometry, the major axis of an ellipse is its longest diameter: a line segment that runs through the center and both foci, with ends at the two most widely separated points of the perimeter. The semi-major axis is the longest semidiameter or one half of the major axis, and thus runs from the centre, through a focus, and to the perimeter. The semi-minor axis of an ellipse or hyperbola is a line segment that is at right angles with the semi-major axis and has one end at the center of the conic section. For the special case of a circle, the lengths of the semi-axes are both equal to the radius of the circle.

C/1980 E1 (Bowell)

C/1980 E1 is a non-periodic comet discovered by Edward L. G. Bowell on 11 February 1980 and which came closest to the Sun (perihelion) in March 1982. It is leaving the Solar System on a hyperbolic trajectory due to a close approach to Jupiter. Since its discovery only 1I/ʻOumuamua and 2I/Borisov have been identified with a faster such trajectory.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Lissauer, Jack J.; de Pater, Imke (2019). Fundamental Planetary Sciences: physics, chemistry, and habitability. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN   9781108411981.
  2. Gamow, George (1962). Gravity . New York, NY, USA: Anchor Books, Doubleday & Co. pp.  66. ISBN   0-486-42563-0. ...the motion of planets along their elliptical orbits proceeds in such a way that an imaginary line connecting the Sun with the planet sweeps over equal areas of the planetary orbit in equal intervals of time.
  3. Wertz, James R.; Larson, Wiley J., eds. (2010). Space mission analysis and design (3rd ed.). Hawthorne, CA, USA: Microcosm. p. 135. ISBN   978-1881883-10-4.
  4. Stöcker, Horst; Harris, John W. (1998). Handbook of Mathematics and Computational Science . Springer. pp.  386. ISBN   0-387-94746-9.
  5. "Horizons Batch for Mercury aphelion (2021-Jun-10) to perihelion (2021-Jul-24)". JPL Horizons (VmagSn is velocity with respect to Sun.). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  6. "Which Planet Orbits our Sun the Fastest?".
  7. v = 42.1219 1/r − 0.5/a, where r is the distance from the Sun, and a is the major semi-axis.