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A diagram showing the path of a planet around the Sun.
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Kepler's Second Law: The Speeds of Planets

Kepler's second law he again discovered by trial and error. After some experimentation, Kepler realized that the line connecting the planet and the Sun sweeps out equal area in equal time. Look at the diagram to the left. What Kepler found is that it takes the same amount of time for the blue planet to go from A to B as it does to go from C to D. But the distance from C to D is much larger than that from A to B. It has to be so that the green regions have the same area. So the planet must be moving faster between C and D than it is between A and B. This means that when planets are near the Sun in their orbit, they move faster than when they are further away.

Kepler's work led him to one more important discovery about the distances of planets.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA