Scientific Visual Analysis and Multimedia
ESM 4984
Michael Mulford

     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 the orbit. 

   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.   

Tools to be used in visualization:  

 Pencil (sketches by hand), MatLabTM, WinOrbit, simple models, and the CAVETM  


click here to go see the project