Friday, May 28, 2010

Orbits and Tidal Accelerations - Greg Egan

"Suppose that a small body, such as a space station — too small to have a significant gravitational field of its own — is orbiting a planet in a perfectly circular orbit. Suppose that the space station has become “tidally locked” so that it always keeps the same face towards the body it's orbiting, just as the moon keeps the same face towards the Earth.

The centre of mass of the space station will move in a circle at a constant rate; anyone floating there will feel weightless, and will remain fixed relative to the walls around them. Now, suppose they place test particles a short distance away from the centre in various directions. If those particles are allowed to move freely, starting from rest (relative to the walls of the station), how will their motion look from within the station?"

5 out of 5

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