Orbital Elements

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The orbit of cometary bodies in the solar system can be described by five parameters.

Contributed by: Jeff Bryant (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



Snapshot 1: An orbit with no inclination lies in the ecliptic plane.

Snapshot 2: An orbit with eccentricity between zero and one is an ellipse.

Snapshot 3: An orbit with a nonzero inclination is tilted with respect to the ecliptic plane.

Snapshot 4: The argument of the perihelion () defines the angle between the ascending node and the perihelion.

Snapshot 5: The longitude of the ascending node () is the angle formed at the Sun from the reference point (Vernal Equinox) to the body's ascending node (point where the body crosses the ecliptic, heading above the ecliptic).

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