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Q & A: Where does a bullet fall if you shoot it straight up?

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Most recent answer: 05/14/2015
If you shoot a bullet from a gun perpendicular to the Earth's surface; assuming no wind resistance, would the bullet return to it's origin where it was shot from?
- Max (age 18)

Hi Max,

It depends on where you are.  If you are at the North or South pole it will land at the same spot.  If you are at the equator it will land a tad to the west.   The effect goes under the fancy name of Coriolis Effect but it is a simple manifestation of conservation of angular momentum in a rotating coordinate system.   The case where you drop the bullet from a tall tower is considered in  . In this example the bullet lands a tad to the East.   The effect is quite small and is easily masked by much larger forces such a wind, terminal velocity, etc.  

Take a look at for a discussion of the Coriolis effect on the accuracy of artillery shells.


(published on 05/14/2015)

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