I’d like to thank Spaceman Neil of for providing today’s guest post with lots of fun facts about Lagrange points! Such a mysterious and fascinating place!
If you’ve ever wondered how satellites stay in orbit, wonder no more! The answer is pretty simple, but the explanation is a bit complicated. Here are some facts about Lagrange Points – basically galactic parking spots.
Fun Facts About Lagrange Points
They Collect Asteroids and Dust
Similar to those kitty cat pajamas in the bottom of your dresser drawer (you know, the ones you got for your birthday from you Aunt Martha?) Lagrange points L4 and L5 are stable and collecting dust clouds. Similar to dust bunnies but much, much bigger. They also have at least one asteroid called Trojan asteroids.
Some Points Aren’t So Stable
The first three (L1, L2, L3) are unstable because if a satellite moves out of place, it will fall away from that point and it can’t come back. If a satellite becomes unstable in L4 or L5, it will easily get pushed back into place by both centripetal forces and gravity.
The Perfect Distance
When the distance is just right (about 4 times the distance to the Moon or 1/100 the distance to the Sun) a spacecraft, will only need one year to go around the Sun, and will keep its position between the Sun and the Earth. That perfect position is known as Lagrangian Point L1.
The Points Were Named After a Mathematician
Italian-French mathematician Joseph Louis Lagrange discovered the Lagrange points when he was working in Berlin in the 1700s. He studied astronomy, the stability of the solar system, mechanics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, probability, and the foundations of the calculus. He also worked on number theory, proving in 1770 that every positive integer is the sum of four squares. Funny thing is, his dad wanted him to be a lawyer. We’re all really grateful he followed his passion!
Hi Super Stars,
The Five Lagrange Points are gravitational sweet spots known as L1 through L5. Kind of sounds like some sort of intergalactic game of Bingo if you ask me! These 5 points are within the Earth-Sun (and Earth-Moon) orbital relationship and each one has a different purpose for monitoring various parts of the solar system. Kind of like treading water to stay afloat in one position, a spacecraft uses frequent rocket firings and other means to remain in the same position.
Although it may seem like a lot of work, it actually takes very little effort. The Lagrange points are great swathes of spaces where the gravitational acceleration from the Earth and the sun are exactly equal allowing objects like space crafts to hover effortlessly. Plus, because they are away from hot stars and warm planets, these points make excellent safe spots for ultra-cold telescopes that measure fluctuations in the temperature of deep space.
I’m sure you future astronauts wouldn’t mind hanging out in these gravity holes. It’s well worth it when it comes to learning more about the mysterious universe.
Cheers from 1 million kilometers away!
All images from NASA.gov