Thursday, January 18, 2007

How do satellites orbit?

Bwah, I'm a bit of a panicked mess this week. Tomorrow in a big day for me-- sort of one of those "define your future" moments, if you will. I have medical school interview, and I'm going to have to trick my interviewers into believing that I am a compassionate, articulate, competent doctor-want-to-be. Ha!

In lieu of a real post, I'll give you this: how satellites orbit.

Do you know?

The are two factors to keeping satellites in the air: gravitational force, and momentum.
So: if you drop an object, it'll fall. That's gravitational force for you.
But if you apply a bit of force before you let go? It'll fall in an arc. That's momentum.
Basically, when we send satellites in orbit, we're applying a ton of force, which makes them fall in an arc. But here's the kicker: we're applying enough force for satellites to fall along the arc of the Earth. So in essence, satellites are continuously falling! They're just moving forward as quickly as they're falling towards the Earth, which allows them to orbit.
Voila! Questions?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will they ask you about this in the tomorrow interview?

I'm impressed how much stuff should somebody know to become a doctor...h

5:45 p.m.  
Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

And now China can shoot them down! Fun times!

11:12 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pfft... Any 1st year engineering student knows this... ;-)

3:02 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the interviews went well!!!
And thanks for the explanation about satellites :).

4:50 p.m.  
Blogger Victoria said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:28 a.m.  
Blogger Victoria said...

Jon- No, in the interview yesterday they just wanted to get to know me better... so no scary science questions!

Fred- Wow am I glad you weren't my interviewer. I probably would have burst into tears at your reaction ;)

And thanks Ammo and Iguana :)

9:29 a.m.  
Blogger James Bond said...

Ah... so THAT's how it works! I thought they scotch-taped the satellites to the star globe that floats over the earth... But I could never understand what happened when they went over the edge and underneath! (It always seemed to me that they would disturb the giant tortoise that the earth is balanced on...)


6:44 p.m.  
Blogger Victoria said...

Haha, I love that.
"But if the Earth is on the back of a tortoise... then what is underneath the tortoise?"
"Ha! You can't trick me! It's tortoises... all the way down!"

6:55 p.m.  

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