Friday, June 11, 2010

Orbits and Tidal Accelerations Detailed - Greg Egan

"Consider a space station moving in a circular orbit around some massive body (a planet, a star, or perhaps a black hole), “tidally locked” so that it always keeps the same face towards whatever it's orbiting. At the centre of the station objects will be weightless, but away from the centre how will they move? Or if they are kept from moving by appropriately oriented “floors”, what weight will they experience? These seem like very simple questions, but it turns out that they involve a lot of interesting physics, and can even reveal whether or not the station is in an orbit where relativistic effects come into play, without the need to make observations of anything outside the station itself."

5 out of 5

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