Hagen, John P. Formerly, Department of Astronomy, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.
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The curve described by a body moving through space, as a meteor moving through the atmosphere, a planet around the Sun, a projectile fired from a gun, or a rocket in flight. In general, the trajectory of a body in a gravitational field is a conic section—ellipse, hyperbola, or parabola—depending on the energy of the motion. The trajectory of a shell or rocket fired from the ground is a portion of an ellipse with the Earth's center as one focus; however, if the altitude reached is not great, the effect of gravity is essentially constant, and the parabola is a good approximation. See also: Ballistics
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