Orbital Motion

Why do planets orbit the sun in ellipses when moons orbit their planet in circles? Pupils control the semi-major axis, eccentricity of the orbit, and position angle. The resulting orbital appears with the related force vectors as selected in order to show the angular momentum conservation.

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CCSS: Adaptable
NGSS: Designed
Additional Tags
Instructional Ideas
  • Relate this to the speed of cars on a Nascar track  there is a minimum and a maximum limit as they go around the curve
Classroom Considerations
  • Requires a free CK-12 account to access the interactive
  • Assumes prior knowledge of angles and vectors
  • Worksheet includes analysis questions and simulator contains more difficult challenge questions
  • Offers a video walkthrough of how the simulator works
  • None