General Question

Michael's avatar

Where can I find more information on the orbits of planets and moons?

Asked by Michael (2685points) July 25th, 2009

Our moon revolves around earth in a synchronous orbit, meaning that we only ever see one side of the moon. I’m trying to find information on what a non-synchronous orbit would look like. Are there moons that do not revolve around their main planet at the same rate at which they rotate? Is there a website that could let me play around with different revolution and rotation rates to see what that would look like?

Are there any good resources for total amateurs on these sorts of issues?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

4 Answers

PipeSmokingMan's avatar

Hey Michael,

no idea about the “what if” simulation you are looking for, but there is great free software that lets you watch some of the “real” stuff in the universe (the solar system, actually…)

Like Celestia ( or Stellarium (
Celestia might be suited better, since it allows you to freely choose your position and does not stick you to the surface of mother earth.

Btw – AFAIK some of Jupiter’s moons are on a non-synchronous orbit, but don’t take my word for it, my astronomer days are some time ago… ;-)

Lupin's avatar

We actually see about 59% of the moon’s total surface over time and different location due to librations and parallax. Librations are primarily caused by the Moon’s varying orbital speed due to the eccentricity of its orbit: this allows us to see up to about 6° more along its perimeter. Parallax is a geometric effect: at the surface of the Earth we are offset from the line through the centers of Earth and Moon, and because of this we can observe a bit (about 1°) more around the side of the Moon when it is on our local horizon. Source: Wikipedia

This site has lots of useful info for basic astronomy

Here is a simulator that allows you to build your own solar system using laws of Physics. .

straightroadtosuccess's avatar

I haven’t been able to find any pictures of what the dark side of the moon might look like, but I did found some other great information that might help.

Lupin's avatar

There are tons of picture of the “far side”. Remember it technically does not have a dark side. You can download the latest version of google earth and go to any place on the moon. The Lunar Recon Orbiter is sending back continuous stream as orbits. Go to the NASA site and you can see as much as you like.
Except for the little green men – they’ve all been photoshopped out. Obviously the tabloids have all the unedited pix. I believe I saw one with Sarah Palin taking a space tour.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther