Some students think that planetary orbits are circular or very elliptical

Earth and Space


Where the very elliptical orbits are extremely eccentric with the aphelion being very far away.

Resources to address this

  • The solar system: what do we know?   (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES03 PN01

    This is a summary of the layout of the Solar System.

    View Resource
  • Drawing ellipses to represent orbits  (11-16)

    Ref - Practical Physics / Astronomy / Kepler's laws/ Drawing ellipses to represent orbits

    The Earth's orbit around the Sun is not perfectly circular. It follows a slightly elliptical path, with the Sun at one focus.

    View Resource
  • Movements in the solar system  (5-!!)

    Ref - SPT HS03 PN06

    This is a summary of what is known about the solar system.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Cox, M., Steegen, A. and Cock, D. M., () How Aware Are Teachers of Students’ Misconceptions in Astronomy? A Qualitative Analysis in Belgium, Science Education International, 27 (2)


    Review sheet

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