Definition of orbit in US English:

orbit

noun

  • 1The curved path of a celestial object or spacecraft around a star, planet, or moon, especially a periodic elliptical revolution.

    • ‘Similarly, Kepler's discovery of the elliptical orbit of the planets did not sit well with the religious establishment.’
    • ‘No, they did find one recently that had a Jupiter-like planet in a Jupiter-like orbit around a Sun-like star, that's the closest they've come so far.’
    • ‘A planet or asteroid in the solar system follows an elliptical orbit, with the sun at one focus.’
    • ‘Will they build up into still broader disarray and eventually move our planet out of its orbit around the sun?’
    • ‘Schwabe had been looking at the Sun to discover a planet inside the orbit of Mercury.’
    • ‘No photograph can prepare you for this, no understanding of orbits and celestial mechanics.’
    • ‘The concern is that the gravitational tug of Jupiter could alter the orbit of the spacecraft and cause it to hit Europa or another moon.’
    • ‘The planets are in orbits around the sun which are almost circular.’
    • ‘This will put the spacecraft into an orbit that is less than 200 miles above the surface.’
    • ‘These planets have circular orbits similar to the orbits of planets in our solar system.’
    • ‘This creates increased atmospheric drag on spacecraft in low orbits, shortening their orbital lifetime.’
    • ‘For a planet in an Earth-sized orbit, it will only be in front of its star for a few hours, once every year.’
    • ‘He therefore accepted Kepler's theory of elliptical orbits for the planets and tested Kepler's laws by direct observation.’
    • ‘They also know that orbits of planets are elliptical and not circular, which of course is another advanced bit of information.’
    • ‘Mars is an average of 48 million miles from Earth, though the distance can vary greatly depending on where the two planets are in their orbits around the sun.’
    • ‘The few planets maintain their orbits with great regularity, and we can make very good predictions where they will be at some time in the future.’
    • ‘Of course our model above is very simplified: there are more than just two massive bodies in the solar system, the planets' orbits are elliptical rather than circular, and there are other forces at work, not just gravity.’
    • ‘Those objects that pose a threat will have their orbits altered by spacecraft made on the Moon.’
    • ‘Today we know it is gravity that holds the planets and stars in their orbits making them appears to be hung on nothing.’
    • ‘Most planets still had regular orbits, and cycles of days, months, and years.’
    course, path, circuit, track, trajectory, rotation, revolution, circle, cycle, round
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 One complete circuit around an orbited body.
      • ‘The Moon crosses the plane of Earth's orbit twice in each complete orbit.’
      • ‘It completes its tight orbit in less than 10 days, compared to the 365 required for our year.’
      • ‘Shenzhou I completed fourteen orbits and returned to earth after just twenty-one hours, but even so it achieved a big step forward for the Chinese.’
      • ‘Jupiter takes 12 years to complete one orbit around the Sun.’
      • ‘One was spotted by the Europeans and is so close to its parent star that it completes an orbit in just four days.’
      • ‘The capsule is expected to remain in orbit for 14 orbits and 21 hours before re-entry and a parachute landing in inner Mongolia.’
      • ‘During 6 of the 16 daily orbits, the Foton spacecraft will be in a suitable orbital position for Kiruna to receive signals from it.’
      • ‘Jupiter takes about 12 years to complete its orbit but Zu was able to give a much more accurate value than that.’
      • ‘The vessel made a small orbit round the moon before launching itself into space at reasonable speeds.’
      • ‘As Kepler had pointed out, objects in low orbits will complete an orbit around the earth faster than those in high orbits, even though their linear velocity is lower.’
      • ‘As it moves further away from us, the Moon takes longer to complete an orbit.’
      • ‘This means that after eight of our orbits Venus has circuited the Sun 13 times, and returns to more or less the same position relative to us.’
      • ‘The object will probably complete six orbits around Earth before returning to a solar orbit next summer, Chodas says.’
      • ‘The craft itself remained in orbit for nearly six months, and completed 1400 orbits of the Earth.’
      • ‘The new Hubble findings close a decade of speculation and debate as to the true nature of this ancient world, which takes a century to complete each orbit.’
      • ‘The Soviet Union in 1959 was the first country to complete a moon orbit.’
      • ‘The further a planet lies from its star, the longer it takes to complete an orbit and the longer astronomers have to observe to detect it.’
      • ‘Yang's trip lasted more than twenty-one hours and took him on fourteen orbits around the Earth.’
      • ‘At these higher orbits it can take many hours to complete a single orbit.’
      • ‘Saturn takes approximately 27 years to complete its orbit.’
      lap, turn, tour, round, circle, revolution, loop
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 The state of being on or moving in an orbit.
      ‘planets in orbit around the sun’
      • ‘To help us understand these events, we compare data from Odyssey to data from similar instruments in orbit around Earth.’
      • ‘The stations could not be resupplied, so they had limited lifetimes in orbit.’
      • ‘Remember Cassini, the multibillion dollar spaceship we put in orbit around Saturn back in July?’
      • ‘Integrating spacecraft is not an easy task, and it is easier to do it on the ground than in orbit.’
      • ‘Cryosat, which is slated to launch on 8 October, will spend three years in orbit, studying the polar caps, the BBC reports.’
      • ‘It will spend four years in orbit around the gas giant, exploring the planet and its rings and moons.’
      • ‘A vehicle in orbit is less provocative than one flying through territorial airspace.’
      • ‘Galileo has operated in orbit more than three times longer than its originally planned mission.’
      • ‘The Russians had the space station Mir in orbit and American astronauts were on board for lengthy visits.’
      • ‘Cassini is safely in orbit around Saturn, and the pictures and data are flooding in.’
      • ‘Two space probes are already in orbit around Mars: Global Surveyor and Odyssey.’
      • ‘Cassini, however, remains in orbit around Saturn and is designed to function for another four years.’
      • ‘The Hubble space telescope has been in orbit for 15 years, during which time it has taken over 750,000 images of the universe.’
      • ‘The most interesting problem would have been refueling the booster in orbit.’
      • ‘During its final years in orbit, the Russian space station Mir suffered a number of mishaps.’
      • ‘During its nearly 14 years in orbit, Hubble has proven to be one of the most significant and successful scientific instruments in its time.’
      • ‘However, a propellant-free way of moving objects around in orbit very slowly is under development.’
      • ‘Its seven scientific instruments will collect data for a full year in orbit around Mercury, an average 58 million kilometres from the sun.’
      • ‘The shuttle era also witnessed the first untethered space walks by U.S. astronauts in orbit.’
      • ‘Human-made space debris in orbit around Earth is commonly called orbital debris.’
    3. 1.3 The path of an electron around an atomic nucleus.
      • ‘Flying subatomic particles collide with other atoms in their path, knocking electrons out of their orbits.’
      • ‘I know I've read about electrons shifting orbits quite a bit before, but I'm too foggy to think of where and how right now.’
      • ‘The maximum number of electrons in any orbit is fixed.’
      • ‘For many atoms, the combinations of electrons in their orbits cancel each other out.’
      • ‘The electrons do have different discrete energies, but they do not follow circular orbits.’
      • ‘A classical physicist would have supposed that electrons encircling a nucleus could do so in orbits whose radii could take any value.’
      • ‘Third, the size of the hydrogen atom's first electron orbit is accurately predicted.’
      • ‘The researchers successfully recorded an interval of one ten million billionth of a second: that's shorter than the period of an electron's orbit in a hydrogen atom.’
      • ‘Scientists used to believe that electrons circled around the nucleus in planet-like orbits.’
      • ‘The electrons are released at this temperature and they are able to return to their normal atomic orbits.’
      • ‘This is the process in which a proton is converted into a neutron by the nucleus capturing a negative electron from one of the inner orbits of its atom.’
      • ‘Atoms give up excess internal energy by giving off photons as electrons return to lower energy orbits.’
      • ‘In its excited state, an electron in the molecule is pushed into a higher atomic orbit.’
      • ‘Quarks are bound together by the strong nuclear force to form protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei, while the electromagnetic force holds electrons in orbits around the nucleus.’
      • ‘Electrons are thus ‘spread out’ quite a bit in their orbits about the nucleus.’
      • ‘The size of the atom is defined not by hard boundaries but by how far the electron orbits reach.’
      • ‘For example, an electron can exist simultaneously in different orbits (a fact which is responsible for giving us the laws of chemistry).’
      • ‘Each electron orbit of the same size or energy could only hold so many electrons.’
      • ‘Rydberg atoms do not move or collide because they are laser cooled, but the electron orbits of adjacent atoms can overlap.’
      • ‘The more radical physicists suspected that problems arose not from the particular models employed, but from fundamental classical assumptions that electrons moved in determinate orbits.’
  • 2A sphere of activity, interest, or application.

    ‘a radical filmmaker outside the Hollywood orbit’
    • ‘It may be moving closer to the orbit of Western Europe, but there are still enormous obstacles to overcome.’
    • ‘To direct one's thoughts against someone is to remain within their orbit.’
    • ‘She appeared to be one of these people who think they know everything worth knowing, and who deem it their duty to enlighten all who come within their orbit.’
    • ‘He may have come within the orbit of the literary set of which Jonson had been the leader.’
    • ‘What the high court has done, however, is to at least bring the torturers within the orbit of the law, subject to some form of accountability and judicial restraint.’
    • ‘The difficulty is in making the concept both concrete and yet expansive enough to include everyone who ought to fall within our orbit of concern.’
    • ‘Second, it is symptomatic that purposeful Baptist theological reflection has emerged outside the Baptist orbit.’
    • ‘Affable by nature, Wallace moves from the stage to the bar and back again, using words of thanks and admiration to chat up everyone within his orbit.’
    • ‘In a different orbit altogether are forthcoming books by two authors also associated with the pop business.’
    • ‘I do not think there is one person within his orbit who was not the beneficiary of his wisdom, encouragement, and generosity.’
    • ‘The best known Marxist economists outside the orbit of official Communism found it all but impossible to come to terms with what was happening.’
    • ‘Commenting on the polls is not within the orbit of this bill.’
    • ‘Nunney is within commuting distance of Bath and Bristol and within the orbit of Londoners seeking weekend retreats.’
    • ‘The southern parts are within the orbit of London and discharge commuters into Euston, St Pancras, King's Cross, and Liverpool Street.’
    • ‘In fact, this sense of daring separates him from many creative artists, both within the Hollywood sphere and the indie orbit.’
    • ‘He claims that liberal opinions on these matters fall within the orbit of evangelical Christianity, but makes very little reference to recent books that refute these false notions.’
    • ‘The book opens with cosmopolitan collecting activities of noble families in the orbit of the Russian court.’
    • ‘It places any criticism of government policy in the orbit of illegal activity.’
    • ‘In the 1980s and 90s, the emergence of centers within the orbit of the seminary has accented new mission challenges.’
    • ‘It should not be concluded from this that Norman and Plantagenet kings were reluctant to see the orbit of their influence enlarged.’
    sphere, sphere of influence, area of activity, range, reach, scope, ambit, compass, sweep, jurisdiction, authority, remit, span of control, domain, realm, province, territory, preserve, department, turf
    View synonyms
  • 3Anatomy
    The cavity in the skull of a vertebrate that contains the eye; the eye socket.

    • ‘The needle is directed upward and laterally to avoid passing through the foramen into the orbit.’
    • ‘The orbit is a socket for the eyeball, muscles, nerves, and vessels that are necessary for proper functioning of the eye.’
    • ‘The major reptile groups are classified according to the pattern of openings in the skull roof behind the orbits.’
    • ‘Orbital inflammation is often caused by sinus infection because of the multiple venous channels that exists between the sinuses and orbits.’
    • ‘Because the orbit (eye socket) is made of bone it cannot expand to accommodate the protruding eyeball.’
    1. 3.1 The area around the eye of a bird or other animal.
      • ‘The margins of the orbits are raised above the general surface of the skull.’
      • ‘The scales vary in form and size from the orbit, head, gill-covers, fins and trunk areas.’

verb

[with object]
  • 1(of a celestial object or spacecraft) move in orbit around (a star or planet)

    ‘Mercury orbits the Sun’
    • ‘Probes that orbit the planet have studied Mars and some spacecraft have even landed on it.’
    • ‘Sedna, the mysterious minor planet orbiting the Sun beyond the far edge of the Kuiper Belt, is gradually yielding its secrets to planetary scientists.’
    • ‘We have one great thing in common with Mars - both planets orbit the same star.’
    • ‘Simply provide us with the exact mass, orbital speed and orbital distance of an undiscovered gas giant planet orbiting a star near our solar system.’
    • ‘For example, currently, many scientists are searching for planets orbiting other stars.’
    • ‘Nasa astronomers said they had found the smallest planets yet orbiting stars beyond our Sun.’
    • ‘They detected a new planet orbiting a distant star called 51 Pegasi.’
    • ‘Titan is slightly bigger than the planet Mercury, and is only called a moon because it orbits the giant planet Saturn rather than the Sun.’
    • ‘If successful, the van-sized spacecraft will orbit the planet 640 km over our heads.’
    • ‘In 1994, the SDI-NASA Clementine spacecraft orbited the Moon and mapped its surface.’
    • ‘After astronomers find a planet orbiting a given star, they continue to monitor that star in the hope of detecting additional planets.’
    • ‘Like planets, comets orbit the Sun, but their path is usually long and narrow.’
    • ‘The public has an unprecedented opportunity to suggest places on Mars that should be photographed from a spacecraft orbiting that planet.’
    • ‘During just the last few years of the twentieth century, astronomers began to find planets orbiting other stars.’
    • ‘Four years later the Clementine spacecraft orbited the Moon, and NASA's Lunar Prospector mission followed in 1998.’
    • ‘If all goes well, Messenger will be the first spacecraft to orbit that planet.’
    • ‘He said thinking of space in those terms amounts to revolution comparable to Copernicus's proof of a solar system that orbited the sun.’
    • ‘Second, it is the only planet currently known to orbit a binary star system.’
    • ‘Yoder's group made the bulge measurements by monitoring the motion of the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft as it orbited the planet over the past 3 years.’
    • ‘This newly discovered planet orbits a star called Tau Gruis, which is about 100 light-years away.’
    1. 1.1no object Fly or move around in a circle.
      ‘the mobile's disks spun and orbited slowly’
      • ‘The station, which is now orbiting about 358 km above the earth, has dropped about 7km in the past two weeks due to strong magnetic storms.’
      • ‘It's like launching from 100 miles south of New Orleans, flying to Chicago, orbiting over the Great Lakes and waiting for the call on station.’
      • ‘We're actually going to orbit around Saturn for a period of about four and a half years and we'll be taking data during that entire time.’
      • ‘Another Texan flown by Mike McCrae orbited around the formation so a press photographer could record the event.’
      • ‘Vast quantities can be locked up inside the rocky interior of a planet, or sloshing away under the permanently icebound exterior of a world orbiting far from an external source of heat.’
      • ‘George Hulett and myself were orbiting over the desert at 5500 feet in the Bonanza camera plane when Bruce Lockwood streaked past us, the bright red nose of the Yak 3 a blur.’
      • ‘Space shuttles, with their engines working while orbiting at altitudes lower than 200 kilometres, therefore pose a powerful threat to the controlled orbits of other satellites.’
      • ‘So, flight planners must schedule the takeoff for a precise interval when the station is orbiting directly overhead.’
      • ‘From rocket engine design to satellites to space station software, more and more of the equipment orbiting far above comes with a ‘Made in Ireland’ sticker.’
      • ‘In the extreme distance, an object that appeared little more than a white blur orbited slowly.’
      • ‘I mean, it won't be orbiting around the Earth, instead it will just be hovering right above it.’
      • ‘As they orbited they swept up debris in the dust clouds.’
      • ‘In the evening, walking out from work, I go by a house with chickens walking in the yard and a small dog orbiting on a chain.’
      • ‘She imagined what it would be like when it was finally orbiting in space.’
      • ‘It will orbit at about 803 kilometres above the Earth's surface and will circle the planet every 100 minutes.’
      • ‘The plan required him to orbit at a safe distance while I would head to the target area.’
      • ‘And space-based and ground-based telescopes will take photos of Discovery as it orbits.’
      • ‘Both aircraft orbited over the water while we figured out what to do.’
      • ‘Thank goodness that no one was orbiting around the goal.’
      • ‘Once the gas for the ion engine is used up, it will continue to orbit, but will eventually spiral lower until it crashes.’
      • ‘We were stationed 21,000 feet and orbited while looking for surface tracks around the battlegroup.’
      • ‘From where they orbit, the world looks the size of a soccer ball.’
      • ‘We continued to orbit until our two remaining wingmen joined.’
      • ‘In truth, Bohr's atom, in which electrons orbit around a dense nucleus like planets around the sun, had already been largely envisaged by Rutherford.’
      • ‘For example, the probe had to travel a billion miles to get from Earth to orbit around Saturn.’
      • ‘A work-in-progress orbiting about 250 miles above Earth, the ISS will eventually carry more than an acre's worth of solar panels.’
      • ‘We were orbiting and waiting for our intended target - a B - 17G Flying Fortress.’
      • ‘On the floor and roof several other, albeit smaller, structures orbited around the larger one.’
      • ‘While my copilot coordinated our recovery, I lazily orbited over the rocks.’
      • ‘The Larmor frequency relates to electrons orbiting in a magnetic field and led him to postulate electrons as orbiting around some centre.’
      • ‘They took the B - 25 up to 2000 feet and orbited over Chino for 20 minutes before landing.’
      • ‘Because it orbits above the atmosphere, which both smears light and blocks out major portions of the spectrum, Hubble can see things that no ground-based telescope will ever see.’
      • ‘By timing it, the astronomers were able to work out how quickly it was orbiting, its distance from the Sun and how much further away Earth must be.’
      • ‘As it orbits, LOLA will send out laser pulses 28 times per second.’
      • ‘It orbits very close to its star, about one-fiftieth the distance between the Earth and the sun.’
      • ‘My father and I stopped walking, and he orbited slowly until he faced us.’
      • ‘It was reported that the Privateer was orbiting with a C - 54, waiting to be called in by a lead aircraft to drop retardant on the Big Elk fire.’
      • ‘If the electrons were orbiting around a positive nucleus, what prevented them from gradually spiralling in towards the nucleus?’
      • ‘It orbited slowly on its axis, revealing nothing, but yet saying so much.’
      • ‘We orbited and were tasked to broaden our search for more contacts.’
      revolve round, circle round, go round, travel round
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Put (a satellite) into orbit.
      • ‘Militaries that can not afford communications satellites of their own can lease transponders on the satellites orbited by other countries, and some - like Australia - have already done so.’
      • ‘If the Soviets could orbit Sputnik, who was to say that they were not proceeding to develop the capability for a space-based missile attack?’

Phrases

  • into orbit

    • informal Into a state of heightened performance, activity, anger, or excitement.

      ‘his goal sent the fans into orbit’
      • ‘Any compliment she would give him in the past would send him into orbit.’
      • ‘The noise had sent the stadium into orbit and Dublin just needed another score or two to fix Tyrone with a stare and make them think that losing was a possibility.’
      • ‘If you are an aficionado of Spanish wines, the list here will send you into orbit.’
      • ‘We just about went into orbit when they came up with a better figure than ours.’

Origin

Mid 16th century (in orbit (sense 3 of the noun)): from Latin orbita ‘course, track’ (in medieval Latin ‘eye socket’), feminine of orbitus ‘circular’, from orbis ‘ring’.

Pronunciation

orbit

/ˈɔrbət//ˈôrbət/