February 26, 2024

Orbital resonance – the impressive gravitational dance made by planets with aligned orbits

Planets orbit their parent stars while separated by enormous distances – in our solar system, planets are like grains of sand in a region the size of a football field. The time it takes for planets to orbit their suns is not specifically related to each other.

But sometimes, their orbits show striking patterns. For example, astronomers who study six planets orbiting a star 100 light years away, we have just discovered that they orbit their star with an almost rhythmic beat, in perfect synchronization. Each pair of planets completes their orbits in times that are the ratios of whole numbers, allowing the planets to align and exert a gravitational push and pull on each other during their orbit.

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