Chapter 8: Section 4 - Orbits and Effects

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In this section you will find materials that support the implementation of EarthComm, Section 4: Orbits and Effects.

Learning Outcomes

  • Use mathematics to develop models that explain patterns in the orbits of planets in our solar system.
  • Analyze data to identify the relationship between the shape of a planet’s orbit and its distance from the Sun.
  • Obtain information about Kepler’s laws and how they explain planetary motion.

Inquiring Further

  1. To learn more about the gravitational "slingshot" effect, visit the following web site:

    Galileo Overview, NASA
    Learn a little more about how the Galileo spacecraft used the gravitational fields of Earth and Venus to propel itself into space towards Jupiter. There is also a helpful diagram of its path over time.
  2. To learn more about the orbits of comets and asteroids, visit the following web sites:

    The Comet's Tail: Comet Orbits, Univ. of California Berkeley
    Learn how orbits are determined.  Also examine the factors that affect a comet's orbit as well as how we know a comet is in its predicted orbit.

    Orbits, Near Earth Object Program - NASA
    Enter the name of any asteroid or comet, and a 3D orbit visualization tool will appear for that object. You can also select from the list of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids to see the asteroids orbit in relation the orbits of Earth and other planets in the solar system.


To learn more about this topic, visit the following web sites:


Kepler's Laws, HyperPhysics
Check out these diagrams and charts to help understand Kepler's Second Law.

Axial Tilt (Obliquity)

Ask an Astrophysicist, NASA
How does the earth's tilt affect the changing of the seasons, and what different angles cause those different seasons?

Milankovitch Cycles and Glaciation, Indiana University
Learn about the connection between eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession in relation to past glaciations.


Precession, NASA
This article describes the development and background behind the idea of precession.


Solar System Exploration, NASA
A profile of various statistics for each planet.

The Moon's Orbit and Eclipses, NASA
Learn how orbital geometry controls the timing of lunar eclipses.