The Asteroid Belt

Astronomers have noted and cataloged more than 6,000 asteroids with regular orbits, most of them concentrated in the asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. So far, every asteroid that has been noted orbits in the same direction as the earth and other planets—except one, whose orbit is retrograde (backward, or contrary to the direction of the planets). Although the asteroids move in the same direction— and pretty much on the same plane—as the planets, the shape of their orbits is different. Many asteroid orbits are more eccentric (the ellipse is more exaggerated and oblong) than those of the planets.

Star Words

A retrograde orbit is one that is backwards or contrary to the direction of the planets. An ellipse is called eccentric when it is non-circular. An ellipse with an eccentricity of 0 is a circle, and an ellipse with an eccentricity of close to 1 would be very oblong. Even planets with the most eccentric orbits (Pluto and Mercury) have eccentricities of only about 0.2.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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