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This Topic in Depth explores the Web's offerings on Orbits. The first site is offered by Northwestern University and asks: What is an orbit? (1 ). The site answers questions such as What causes an orbit to happen?, What is a satellite?, What travels in an orbit?, and Are there orbits within orbits?. A great starting site for this subject, visitors should come away with a broad and clear description of the topic. The second site, called Orbit Diagrams (2 ) is provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The diagrams are "intended to aid in the visualization of the three-dimensional nature of the orbits and how they are orientated with respect to the orbit of the earth." Next, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Astronomy comes the Moon Phases (3 ) interactive Web site. Users are able to animate the moon's orbit in various phases and views as well as learn all the names of the phases. The fourth site is another virtual visualization tool provided by NASA's Near Earth Object Program called Orbits (4 ). The site lets users enter the designation or name of any asteroid or comet and then view the three-dimensional orbit of that object. The next site, maintained by the Conservation, Astronomy, Physics and Soaring Page, is called Satellite Orbits - Gravitational Assist from Planets (5 ). The site contains information on Kepler's Laws, which apply to elliptical orbits involving two bodies, hyperbolic orbits, relative motion, and the gravitational sphere of influence. The sixth site is an educational lesson provided by Dr. Richard L. Bowman of Bridgewater College called Planetary Orbit Exercise (6 ). Students are given information on Keplar's Laws of Planetary Motion, a list of definitions, links to outside sites for additional information, and then several questions to answer. The Planetary Physical Data (7 ) page is part of the larger Smithsonian Center for Earth and Planetary Studies Web site. Visitors will find a list of planets along with various information such as their relative sidereal period of orbit, mean orbital velocity, orbital eccentricity, and much more. The last site related to orbits is an educational activity provided by the Physics Classroom called Circular Motion and Planetary Motion (8 ). Four lessons are presented including Motion Characteristics for Circular Motion, Applications of Circular Motion, Universal Gravitation, and Planetary and Satellite Motion. Each contain clear and well written descriptions along with all the necessary information for successful completion.
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