The goal of this project is to explore and present ways to visualize celestial
mechanics. The motion of bodies in orbit can be described by six
values: either the six ëorbital elementsí or the position and velocity
vectors. One way to simplify the picture, is to look at the orbit
in the plane that it travels in (two dimensions, three orbital elements).
This method does not describe the orientation of the plane in xyz-coordinate
space, but it does give the viewer a good idea of the shape and size of
Another useful way to look at the
orbit is to flatten the surface of the earth, and trace out the path that
the orbit would take over the earth. This is useful it visualizing
the coverage of the satellite, but it doe not give the feel of a real orbit,
traveling on an elliptical path in a certain plane. Often times,
it is of interest to observe how a variable such as speed changes during
the orbit. This variable can be plotted versus time or position.
These methods for visualizing orbital mechanics
will be presented in the format of a web page. Beyond this, the project
will attempt to combine all of these variables into a dynamic visual presentation
in the CAVETM. This possibility would really assist
viewers in visualizing the paths of satellites and open doors to further
visualization in this area.