Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Maintaining orbit around the moon

  1. Jan 13, 2013 #1
    http://news.discovery.com/space/ast...s-put-an-asteroid-into-lunar-orbit-130111.htm

    Basically, wouldn't any object that orbited around the moon gradually see its orbit be made more and more eliptical until it crashed into the moon itself?

    Also, it actually takes longer for a satellite to orbit around the moon than the Earth itself, due to the Earth being more dense despite having a much larger diameter, correct?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2013 #2

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Why do you expect this?

    Low orbit times are proportional to ##\sqrt{\rho}## with the average density ρ only. This gives ~105 minutes for very low lunar orbits.
     
  4. Jan 13, 2013 #3
    Earth gravity should gradually affect any object orbiting. I wonder for how long thought.

    It takes 90 minutes for the space shuttle to orbit the Earth.
     
  5. Jan 13, 2013 #4

    cepheid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think the spacecraft is well within the distance that the effect of the moon's gravity dominates over the effect of the Earth's. But another way to think about it is that the object is in a stable orbit around Earth just like the moon is.
     
  6. Jan 13, 2013 #5

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    I took 82 minutes, which would correspond to a height of 0 km (not possible as earth has an atmosphere, of course).

    Earth affects the orbit, but orbits which are not too high can be stable for a long time - a satellite around the moon should be closer than 20 000 to 30 000km.
    Consider the earth-moon-system as interesting example: The gravitational force between moon and sun exceeds the gravitational force between moon and earth! But still, the lunar orbit has been stable for some billion years.
     
  7. Jan 13, 2013 #6
    It should be akin to how the moon affects tides on the earth. As a thought experiment...if the moon had oceans, and if it rotated instead of being tidally locked, would the "tides" be greater than the Earth's tides, due to the mass of the earth being so great compared to the mass of the moon vs the earth?
     
  8. Jan 13, 2013 #7

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    With an earth-like ocean and 24-hours rotation period, moon would have larger tides.
    This has nothing to do with an orbit, however.
     
  9. Jan 14, 2013 #8
    The maximum altitude seems to be much lower for circular orbits

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/30nov_highorbit/

    And low orbits can also be unstable, because of mass concentrations in the moon

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/06nov_loworbit/
     
  10. Jan 15, 2013 #9

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Inclination is the problem here:
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Maintaining orbit around the moon
  1. Moons orbit (Replies: 5)

  2. Moon's Orbit (Replies: 4)

Loading...