A.6 NASA Science, Solar System Exploration. Updated Sept 2019

Solar System Exploration

Updated Sept 2019

Kepler’s First Law: each planet’s orbit about the Sun is an ellipse. The Sun’s center is always located at one focus of the orbital ellipse. The Sun is at one focus. The planet follows the ellipse in its orbit, meaning that the planet to Sun distance is constantly changing as the planet goes around its orbit.

Kepler’s Second Law: the imaginary line joining a planet and the sons sweeps equal areas of space during equal time intervals as the planet orbits. Basically, that planets do not move with constant speed along their orbits. Rather, their speed varies so that the line joining the centers of the Sun and the planet sweeps out equal parts of an area in equal times. The point of nearest approach of the planet to the Sun is termed perihelion. The point of greatest separation is aphelion, hence by Kepler’s Second Law, a planet is moving fastest when it is at perihelion and slowest at aphelion.