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Originally posted by Schmidt1989
, does it orbit that point? At first I thought the object would stay stationary, then thought that that is a little rediculous of an idea. So does it orbit the Lagrange point?
The Lagrangian points (pronounced /ləˈɡreɪndʒiən/; also Lagrange point, L-point, or libration point), are the five positions in an orbital configuration where a small object affected only by gravity can theoretically be stationary relative to two larger objects (such as a satellite with respect to the Earth and Moon). The Lagrange points mark positions where the combined gravitational pull of the two large masses provides precisely the centripetal force required to rotate with them. They are analogous to geostationary orbits in that they allow an object to be in a "fixed" position in space rather than an orbit in which its relative position changes continuously.
A more precise but technical definition is that the Lagrangian points are the stationary solutions of the circular restricted three-body problem.[1] For example, given two massive bodies in circular orbits around their common center of mass, there are five positions in space where a third body, of comparatively negligible mass, could be placed which would then maintain its position relative to the two massive bodies. As seen in a rotating reference frame with the same period as the two co-orbiting bodies, the gravitational fields of two massive bodies combined with the centrifugal force are in balance at the Lagrangian points, allowing the third body to be stationary with respect to the first two bodies.[2]
L4 and L5
The L4 and L5 points lie at 60 degrees ahead of and behind Earth in its orbit as seen from the Sun. Unlike the other Lagrange points, L4 and L5 are resistant to gravitational perturbations. Because of this stability, objects tend to accumulate in these points, such as dust and some asteroid-type objects.
A spacecraft at L1, L2, or L3 is ‘meta-stable’, like a ball sitting on top of a hill. A little push or bump and it starts moving away. A spacecraft at one of these points has to use frequent rocket firings or other means to remain in the same place. Orbits around these points are called 'halo orbits'.
But at L4 or L5, a spacecraft is truly stable, like a ball in a bowl: when gently pushed away, it orbits the Lagrange point without drifting farther and farther, and without the need of frequent rocket firings. The Sun's pull causes any object in the L4 and L5 locations to ‘orbit’ the Lagrange point in an 89-day cycle. These positions have been studied as possible sites for artificial space stations in the distant future.