How Can Getting Farther Away from Earth Help Us See It More Clearly?
ESU101  Orbiting Earth

Satellites orbit Earth in a few characteristic patterns. Two common orbits are geostationary and polar orbits.

  !   Click each image to see an animation.

Jennifer Loomis, TERC

NASA

Geostationary orbit. This simulated satellite remains directly above 30°N, 45°E at all times.

Polar orbit. The orbit of NASA's Terra satellite takes it over both poles. Earthís rotation brings different parts of the surface under the camera on every orbit.

Geostationary satellites remain above a single point on Earth's surface at all times. They circle the planet once every 24 hours, continually viewing the same part of Earth.

Satellites in polar orbits circle Earth in a constant plane while the planet rotates beneath them. Satellites in this type of orbit can view only a strip of Earth's surface on each orbit. Strips of images must be mosaicked, or "stitched together," to produce a larger view.

2. Describe an advantage and a disadvantage of placing a satellite in a geostationary orbit.

3. Describe an advantage and a disadvantage of placing a satellite in a polar orbit.


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