The Satellite Orbit 1.5 Million km Away...

in #science4 years ago (edited)


Our WMAP satellite from NASA, and Planck spacecraft from ESA, helped us calculate the shape of the universe, which - based on all the data the observable universe could offer us - was found to be flat. We talked a bit about this in our last article. Here is the basics and more to it.

Today, we shall see a little more on this, especially the orbits these satellites were placed in. This has a tiny little two letter name - the L2 orbit, easy to remember. But it takes us a bit more to see what it means.


When we put a satellite in the outer space for some purpose, we know - from the very definition of satellite of course - it is in an orbit. And the particular orbit we place it in, depends on the purpose it is made for.

Satellite orbits have many different types, but the one we are interested in here, is the one around the sun, called heliocentric orbit - the orbit of every planet in solar system.

The satellite in the L2 orbitdoesn't move arou the earth, it moves around the sun, i.e. in a heliocentric orbit.

Short story - Long time ago, there used to be a problem - it was the effect of the gravity of sun (or moon) on the satellites. This was called the "three body problem."

Of course the first two of these bodies were earth and our satellite. The third body was either sun or moon, depending where we are trying to put the satellite. The mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange solved it. End of our little story. Here is more info on him.

He found five points for every three body system being considered. These points were called Lagrange points after him. As you can see in the image, these are named L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. And this is where our orbit L2 comes from.

A little introduction about all these points, L1, L2 and L3 are in a straight line joining sun and earth. L4 and L5 form equilateral triangles with earth and sun.

** A satellite in L2 orbit is always in a straight line with the sun and the earth, because it is dragged by the combined gravitational pull of both.**

As for the heading, the distance of a satellite in this orbit from earth is 1.5 million kilometers!! And such a satellite is always used for studying the space, perhaps the only thing you'll know about earth from a distance so far is how small it looks compared to the sun.

Only two satellites have travelled in this orbit yet. The first was WMAP, which helped tremendously in finding about the shape of the universe and calculating some universal constants more precisely.

And the second was Planck spacecraft, which was improved version of WMAP, and helped us gain a lot more accurate data for the same.

Thanks to these two, it's official that our world is flat... I mean the universe... And we know much more, which I shall save for later.

After the grand success of these two missions, the next in line is way more cool. Let's talk about the definition of next generation space telescope.

Cool... as in US $10 billion investment, and one that's gonna be totally worth it.

Cool... as in it is super cool, (less than 50°K). For us, this means - no more planets hiding from the hubble in shadows, and no more guesswork about planets with water. It's a freakin Infrared Telescope, plus it's the most powerful telescope in the history of earth... if we can ignore the alien conspiracies, not sure what we can hear these days, lol... The hubble still does have it's importance though.

Cool... as in if the hubble telescope can look for "toddler galaxies", this one can look way farther in time, the cute little "baby galaxies", perhaps the first galaxies that ever formed!

And yes, finally, the name is James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to be launched in Spring 2019. One little possible drawback of - may be no maintenance... or may be this too is a plus point, thanks to the advancement in robotics and artificial intelligence. Some information on James Webb is here.

First image was taken from while the other is taken from the website.

Check these links out if you want. There's way more cool stuff out there... Did you know JWST has gold plated mirrors...and this gold weighs more than a golf ball!! Plus these mirrors are bigger than any other infrared telescope ever built... the list just doesn't end... May be I should save it for the next post.

See you soon, take care.


Hello @pratik27 ! I'm happy to see another steemer writing posts on space-related topics :)

I really enjoyed your casual, yet informative, style of writing. Perhaps I need to lol more in my own posts^^

Keep it up! WIll be looking forward to reading more from you.

Honored to meet you sir, but I really don't know much, sorry. I simply try to stuff as much information I can, in the easiest way I can. Plus the community is quite supportive to new guys here. All your commentaries are very much appreciated.

Interesting topic and good to know they are getting results. :)

This is a really nice post! Please keep up the great work! I didn't know about this satellite, so I learned something :)

Thank you @justtryme90, I'll keep myself updated and keep posting better content.

Your off to a great start.

I am a teacher, It's kinda my job...

flagged for annoying me.

upvoted as compensation ^^

Returned your $0.10 with an additional $0.05 interest.

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