Orbit Definition: Lesson for Kids

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Deborah Stone

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Christianlly Cena

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Learn the definition of orbit, and explore different types of objects that orbit the sun, Earth, moon, and solar system. The lesson defines the purpose of man-made and natural satellites as they orbit the planets. Updated: 01/24/2021

What is an Orbit?

Have you ever wondered what could happen in the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun just one time? From the first day of Earth's orbit to its last, you'll celebrate a birthday, move on to the next grade, and maybe even grow a few inches.

That's because it takes a full year - or just over 365 days - for Earth to orbit, or revolve, around the sun. An orbit is a repeating path that one object in space takes around another. All orbits are elliptical in shape, meaning they're egg-shaped, or oval, rather than circular.

All orbits are elliptical in shape.
Elliptical Orbit

Satellites

Just as Earth orbits the sun, the moon orbits Earth. This revolution takes approximately 29.5 days to complete and is the reason we see various phases of the moon.

In astronomy speak, moons and the Earth are natural satellites, or celestial bodies that orbit a larger celestial body. ('Celestial' simply means related to the sky.) Man-made satellites also orbit Earth. These satellites are used to collect images and for communication purposes. They also help supply weather information by monitoring cloud patterns.

There are more than 2, 000 satellites orbiting Earth.
Earth Satellites

Other Orbiting Objects in the Solar System

Earth, our moon and man-made satellites aren't the only objects in orbit in our solar system. Other planets (most of which have their own moons), comets and asteroids all orbit the sun. The main difference in these celestial bodies is their size and composition, or what they're made of. For example, an asteroid is a body of metals and rocky materials, while comets are mostly ice, dust, and rocky materials.

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Additional Activities

Orbit: Crossword Puzzle

This activity will check your knowledge about an orbit and the objects that follow this type of path.

Directions

Complete the crossword by filling in a word that fits each of the given clues. For this activity, you'll need a printer to reproduce the following page. With a pencil and an eraser, neatly write your answers in the boxes provided.

Across

3. Lunar __________ are caused by the movement and position of the Moon about the Sun and the Earth.

7. All orbits of objects in space are __________, which means they are egg-shaped.

9. The repeating path taken by the Moon to go around the Earth is known as an __________.

10. Man-made satellites collect __________ for weather forecasting, tracking storms, and probing pollution.


Down

1. __________ is the only planet in this solar system known to harbor life.

2. The Earth takes about 365 days or a year to __________ around the Sun.

4. A __________ satellite is a celestial body in space that orbits around a larger celestial body.

5. The Sun is a dense, yellow dwarf star situated at the __________ of the solar system.

6. The __________ is Earth's sole companion, which revolves around the planet for 29.5 days.

8. __________ go around the Sun at very long distances, causing them to move at highly stretched-out orbits.


Answer Key

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