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Elliptical Orbit Question

  1. Nov 5, 2007 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    A particular comet has an elliptical orbit. When closest to the Sun (perihelion) it is at a distance of 8.823 1010 m and moves with a speed of 54.6 km/s. The greatest distance between this comet and the Sun (aphelion) is 6.106 1012 m.
    (a) Is the speed of the comet greater than or less than 54.6 km/s when it is at aphelion?
    -this is less than
    (b) Calculate its speed at aphelion.

    2. Relevant equations
    I tried using conservation of energy where Ki + Ui = Kf + Uf where K = to 1/2mv^2 based on the velocities of the comet at both locations. I set U = (-GMm/r) where G = the gravitational constant, M = the mass of the sun, m = the mass of the comet, and r = the distance from the sun (the given values in the problem). You can cancel out m as the mass of the comet is present in all terms and is not given in the problem. However, each time I solved this problem with the values given, I'm not getting the correct answer. Is there another approach?
    I tried the conservation of angular momentum as well, but that did not work.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2007 #2


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    Homework Helper

    There is a similar problem on another thread. I'd suggest, though, that you show here the actual calculation you did -- it's awfully hard to troubleshoot your solution if we can't see it...
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