Astrophysics (Index)About

synchronous orbit

(orbit with angular velocity matching the rotation of the orbited body)

A synchronous orbit is an orbit around a body such that the orbiting body's orbital period matches the rotation period of the host body. With deviation from spherical symmetry of the bodies, such an orbit can be resonant, i.e., if the bodies should fall into it, they tend to stay in it.

The term geosynchronous orbit refers to such an orbit around Earth, and the term geostationary orbit refers to a particular kind of geosynchronous orbit: circular and aligned with the Earth's equator, in which case it remains over one spot on the Earth's surface. Some satellites are specifically placed in this orbit, for example, to support radio communication links. This requires a specific orbital radius which places it roughly 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface.

Charon orbits Pluto in a synchronous orbit. In such natural cases, tidal locking is a contributing factor, e.g., involving some asymmetry in Pluto's mass. The two are mutually tidally locked, each rotating so as to face the other. Such rotation of a tidally locked body is termed synchronous rotation, i.e., the rotation is synchronized with the orbital period.

(celestial mechanics,orbits,kinematics,rotation)
Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
Ground-Base Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS)