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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
Q:
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)
Australia
A:

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.

LeeH


(published on 05/14/2015)

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