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The Ellipse - Problem 18

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Teacher/Instructor Alissa Fong
Alissa Fong

MA, Stanford University
Teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area

Alissa is currently a teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and Brightstorm users love her clear, concise explanations of tough concepts

Many astronomical bodies have elliptical orbits, including planets around the sun. Here we write the equation for the path of Mars based on knowing its closest and farthest distances from the sun. It is challenging to interpret the distance from the sun as "a, "b," and "c" values, so here we use a sketch to help. As a bonus, we also look at the eccentricity of the path: that is, the ratio of the "c" to "a" values, which tells us how circular the path is compared to other ellipses.

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