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Types Of Orbits

A synchronous orbit around a celestial body is a nearly circular orbit in which the body's period of revolution equals its rotation period. This way, the same hemisphere of the satellite is always facing the object of its orbit. This orbit is called a geosynchronous orbit for the Earth where, with its sidereal rotation period of 23 hours 56 minutes 4 seconds, the geosynchronous orbit is 21,480 mi (35,800 km) above the equator on the Earth's surface. A satellite in a synchronous orbit will seem to remain fixed above the same place on the body's equator. But perturbations will cause synchronous satellites to drift away from this fixed place above the body's equator. Thus, frequent corrections to their orbits are needed to keep geosynchronous satellites in their assigned places. They are very useful for communications and making global meteorological observations. Hence, the vicinity of the geosynchronous orbit is now crowded with artificial satellites.

The Space Age has greatly increased the importance of hyperbolic orbits. The orbits of spacecraft flybys past planets, their satellites, and other solar system bodies are hyperbolae. Other recent flybys have been made past Comet Halley in March 1986 by three spacecraft, and past the asteroids 951 Gaspra in October 1991 and 243 Ida in August 1993; both flybys were made by the Galileo spacecraft enroute to Jupiter. Although accurate masses could not be found for these small bodies from the hyperbolic flyby orbits, all of them were extensively imaged.

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