Chapter 12

Slicing Cones or Measuring the Path of a Comet — with Confidence

In This Chapter

arrow Spinning around with circles

arrow Dissecting the parts and graphs of parabolas

arrow Exploring the ellipse

arrow Boxing around with hyperbolas

arrow Writing and graphing conics in two distinct forms

Astronomers have been looking out into space for a very long time — longer than you’ve been staring at the ceiling during class. Some of the things that are happening out there are mysteries; others have shown their true colors to curious observers. One phenomenon that astronomers have discovered and proven is the movement of bodies in space. They know that the paths of objects moving in space are shaped like one of four conic sections (shapes made from cones): the circle, the parabola, the ellipse, or the hyperbola. Conic sections have evolved into popular ways to describe motion, light, and other natural occurrences in the physical world.

In astronomical terms, an ellipse, for example, describes the path of a planet ...

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