What causes elliptical planetary orbits?

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Offline thedoc

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What causes elliptical planetary orbits?
« on: 03/04/2012 16:56:54 »

Hi Dr Chris,

What a fantastic radio show you put on!

Something I've been wondering for a very long time - I have understood your explanation of why planets revolve around stars - the fact that they have energy and are constantly 'falling' but because they have forward motion and want to keep moving in a straight line, they keep 'missing' the thing they are falling towards and therefore move around it.

What I wanted to ask is why the orbits are often elliptical and not circular. I know that some of the plans have elliptical orbits, and some comets' orbits are very elliptical. How does this work and what causes it?

Thanks very much!

Cape Town
South Africa

Asked by Benjamin Lunsky

                                        Visit the webpage for the podcast in which this question is answered.


« Last Edit: 03/04/2012 16:56:54 by _system »