What Are Lagrange Points?

by Jason Major on June 10, 2013

Earth-Sun Lagrange points (NASA)

Earth-Sun Lagrange points (NASA)

Like gravitational parking spaces, Lagrange points provide locations where spacecraft can be positioned to conduct valuable scientific observations of the Universe and perhaps someday even offer foundations for more permanent human outposts. Named after Italian-French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, who first proposed their existence in a 1772 paper, there are 5 such points within the Earth-Sun (as well as the Earth-Moon) orbital relationship, named numerically L1 through L5. Although there’s no actual physical mass at each of these locations, objects can be placed into orbit around them… in fact, the solar system has been doing just that for billions of years!

For a better idea of how Lagrange points work, Sixty Symbols has released a video featuring Professor Mike Merrifield, professor of astronomy at the University of Nottingham. Check it out above.

Credit: Sixty Symbols videos by Brady Haran

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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