Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • Diagram showing circular and elliptical orbits.
    Rights: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Robert Simmon Published 18 June 2019 Size: 30 KB Referencing Hub media

    Planets have orbits that are close to circular. However, comets have elliptical orbits.

    To demonstrate the different orbits on the gravity well, begin by placing a heavy ball on the sheet to represent a central mass like the Sun. Simulate the circular orbit of a planet by rolling a marble so that it forms a circular orbit. To simulate the elliptical orbit of a comet, roll a marble so it narrowly misses the central mass. This will cause it to have an elongated elliptical orbit.

    Related resources:

    IMAGE: NASA Robert Simmon

      Go to full glossary
      Download all