The highest points of all ballistic trajectories form an ellipse with an eccentricity of sqrt(3)/2

The sketch here is inspired by this blog post which references “An elliptic property of parabolic trajectories by J. L. Fernández-Chapou, A. L. Salas-Brito, C. A. Vargas“, 2004. The author asks the question:

I wondered what shape you would get if you connected all the apex points of all trajectories, if you only changed the angle and kept the same initial speed.

Surprisingly, you get an ellipse!

The equation for the ellipse is:

x2 / a2 + (yb)2 / b2 = 1

Where a = v02 / (2g) and b = v02 / (4g). v0 is the initial speed and g is the acceleration due to gravity. The eccentricity of this ellipse is constant for all values of v0 and g, and this value is e = √3 / 2.

This sketch performs that simulation, and you can click to change the gravity and speed of the balls to a random new value:

Here is the code for the simulation.

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