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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Your Sky: Asteroid and Hyperbolix

No, not them! I've integrated the Landgraf/Stumpff algorithm for determination of the position of bodies on parabolic and hyperbolic orbits into Your Sky, which permits computation of the position of all catalogued objects on hyperbolic heliocentric orbits. (Such bodies are rare--all are comets whose orbits have been perturbed by planets during their most recent passage through the solar system to put them on an escape trajectory.) The algorithm handles eccentricities as great as 1.1, which more than suffices since no object in the JPL catalogue of comets with well-known orbital elements has an eccentricity as high as 1.06.

To demonstrate, you can plot the current position of Comet Bowell (C/1980 E1) which, with an eccentricity of 1.056, has the most hyperbolic orbit of any catalogued comet. Earlier versions of Your Sky would have abandoned the calculation of the position of this comet upon discovering it was on an escape trajectory, while the new release correctly plots it receding into the void more than one and half times the distance of Pluto from the Sun.

Posted at July 24, 2005 23:09