Astrophysics (Index)About

conic section

(orbit shapes, like the intersection of a plane and cone)

Conic section is a term for a set of shapes or curves that happen to describe the shape of orbits and interactions between two objects interacting with an force proportional to their distance-of-separation squared (e.g., gravity, or the attractive electric force), and can be described by equations consisting of second degree polynomials (i.e., with up to square terms). These shapes or curves happen to match those created by the intersection of a plane with a cone.

Points and lines are also special cases, which correspond to two objects attached by gravity, and to an object dropping straight into another.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
eccentricity (e)
Keplerian orbit
Kepler's laws
liquid mirror telescope
orbital element
semi-major axis (a)