- Education and Science
Astronomy for Kids: Learn About Orbits and Satellites
The Earth is one of eight planets in the Solar System. All of the planets orbit the sun. Orbit means to go around and around. Why don’t you orbit something? Put a stuffed animal on the floor and walk around it. You are orbiting your stuffed animal.
Some of the planets in the Solar System have moons. The moons orbit the planets. Our moon orbits around the Earth. Jupiter and Saturn have lots of moons.
So, what does solar in Solar System mean? Solar refers to the sun. Have you heard of solar panels? They can make electricity using energy from the sun. The electricity can be used to run lights, fans, televisions and computers.
What is a system? A system is a group of parts that make up something. Think of a family. Parents, brothers and sisters are like the parts that make up a family. Our Solar System has many parts: the sun, planets, moons and asteroids.
Natural and Artificial Satellites
Satellites are objects that orbit planets. Satellites can be natural or artificial.
Natural means made by nature. Moons are natural satellites. One moon orbits the Earth. Two moons orbit the planet Mars.They are called Phobos and Deimos. Jupiter has 64 moons. Four of Jupiter’s moons are called Galilean moons. They were discovered by an astronomer named Galileo when he used a telescope to look at the night sky. Saturn has 60 moons.
Artificial satellites are made by people. They are sent into space using rockets. Then they orbit the Earth. Artificial satellites have many uses. They can be used to track the weather, deliver television programming, provide directions when driving and provide telephone services.
A geosynchronous satellite is one type of artificial satellite. A geosynchronous satellite’s orbit around the Earth takes one day. A geostationary orbit is a type of geosynchronous orbit. A geostationary orbit keeps a satellite over the same point on the Earth's equator. To stay at the same point, the satellite must constantly move along with the Earth.
To see how this works, draw a circle on a piece of paper. Now hold a crayon above the circle. Move the paper. To keep the crayon over the circle, you must move the crayon along with the paper.