orbit, appear as arbitrary constants, introduced by the process of integration. In a case like the present one, where there are two differential equations of the second order, there will be four such constants. The result of the integration is that the co-ordinates x and y and their derivatives as to the time, which express the position, direction of motion and speed of the planet at any moment, are found as functions of the four constants and of the time. Putting
for the constants, the general form of the solution will be
From these may be derived by differentiation as to t the velocities
= ƒ′1(a, b, c, d, t) = x′
= ƒ′2(a, b, c, d, t) = y′
The symbols x′ and y′ are used for brevity to mean the velocities expressed by the differential coefficients. The arbitrary constants, a, b, c and d, are the elements of the orbit, or any quantities from which these elements can be obtained. We note that, in the actual process of integration, no geometric construction need enter.
Let us next consider the problem in another form. Conceive that instead of the orbit of the planet, there is given a position P (fig. 2), through which the planet passed at an assigned moment, with a given velocity, and in a given direction, represented by the arrowhead. Logically these data completely determine the orbit in which the planet shall move, because there is only one such orbit passing through P, a planet moving in which would have the given speed. It follows that the elements of the orbit admit of determination when the co-ordinates of the planet at an assigned moment and their derivatives as to time are given. Analytically the elements are determined from these data by solving the four equations just given, regarding a, b, c and d as unknown quantities, and x, y, x′, y′ and t as given quantities. The solution of these equations would lead to expressions of the form
one for each of the elements.
The general equations expressing the motion of a planet considered as a material particle round a centre of attraction lead to theorems the more interesting of which will now be enunciated.
(1) The motion of such a planet may take place not only in an ellipse but in any curve of the second order; an ellipse, hyperbola, or parabola, the latter being the bounding curve between the other two. A body moving in a parabola or hyperbola would recede indefinitely from its centre of motion and never return to it. The ellipse is therefore the only closed orbit.
(2) The motion takes place in accord with Kepler’s laws, enunciated elsewhere.
(3) Whewell’s theorem: if a point R be taken at a distance from the sun equal to the major axis of the orbit of a planet and, therefore, at double the mean distance of the planet, the speed of the latter at any point is equal to the speed which a body would acquire by falling from the point R to the actual position of the planet. The speed of the latter may, therefore, be expressed as a function of its radius vector at the moment and of the major axis of its orbit without introducing any other elements into the expression. Another corollary is that in the case of a body moving in a parabolic orbit the velocity at any moment is that which would be acquired by the body in falling from an infinite distance to the place it occupies at the moment.
(4) If a number of bodies are projected from any point in space with the same velocity, but in various directions, and subjected only to the attraction of the sun, they will all return to the point of projection at the same moment, although the orbits in which they move may be ever so different.
(5) At each distance from the sun there is a certain velocity which a body would have if it moved in a circular orbit at that distance. If projected with this velocity in any direction the point of projection will be at the end of the minor axis of the orbit, because this is the only point of an ellipse of which the distance from the focus is equal to the semi-major axis of the curve, and therefore the only point at which the distance of the body from the sun is equal to its mean distance.
(6) The relation between the periodic time of a planet and its mean distance, approximately expressed by Kepler’s third law, follows very simply from the laws of centrifugal force. It is an elementary principle of mechanics that this force varies directly as the product of the distance of the moving body from the centre of motion into the square of its angular velocity. When bodies revolve at different distances around a centre, their velocities must be such that the centrifugal force of each shall be balanced by the attraction of the central mass, and therefore vary inversely as the square of the distance. If M is the central mass, n the angular velocity, and a the distance, the balance of the two forces is expressed by the equation
whence a³n² = M, a constant.
The periodic time varying inversely as n, this equation expresses Kepler’s third law. This reasoning tacitly supposes the orbit to be a circle of radius a, and the mass of the planet to be negligible. The rigorous relation is expressed by a slight modification of the law. Putting M and m for the respective masses of the sun and planet, a for the semi-major axis of the orbit, and n for the mean angular motion in unit of time, the relation then is
What is noteworthy in this theorem is that this relation depends only on the sum of the masses. It follows, therefore, that were any portion of the mass of the sun taken from it, and added to the planet, the relation would be unchanged. Kepler’s third law therefore expresses the fact that the mass of the sun is the same for all the planets, and deviates from the truth only to the extent that the masses of the latter differ from each other by quantities which are only a small fraction of the mass of the sun.
Problem of Three Bodies.—As soon as the general law of gravitation was fully apprehended, it became evident that, owing to the attraction of each planet upon all the others, the actual motion of the planets must deviate from their motion in an ellipse according to Kepler’s laws. In the Principia Newton made several investigations to determine the effects of these actions; but the geometrical method which he employed could lead only to rude approximations. When the subject was taken up by the continental mathematicians, using the analytical method, the question naturally arose whether the motions of three bodies under their mutual attraction could not be determined with a degree of rigour approximating to that with which Newton had solved the problem of two bodies. Thus arose the celebrated “problem of three bodies.” Investigation soon showed that certain integrals expressing relations between the motions not only of three but of any number of bodies could be found. These were:—
First, the law of the conservation of the centre of gravity. This expresses the general fact that whatever be the number of the bodies which act upon each other, their motions are so related that the centre of gravity of the entire system moves in a straight line with a constant velocity. This is expressed in three equations, one for each of the three rectangular co-ordinates.
Secondly, the law of conservation of areas. This is an extension of Kepler’s second law. Taking as the radius vector of each body the line from the body to the common centre of gravity of all, the sum of the products formed by multiplying each area described, by the mass of the body, remains a constant. In the language of theoretical mechanics, the moment of momentum of the entire system is a constant quantity. This law is also expressed in three equations, one for each of the three planes on which the areas are projected.
Thirdly, the entire vis viva of the system or, as it is now called, the energy, which is obtained by multiplying the mass of each body into half the square of its velocity, is equal to the sum of the quotients formed by dividing the product of every pair of the masses, taken two and two, by their distance apart, with the addition of a constant depending on the original conditions of the system. In the language of algebra putting m1, m2, m3, &c. for the masses of the bodies, r1.2, r1.3, r2.3, &c. for their mutual distances apart; v1, v2, v3, &c., for the velocities with which they are moving at any moment; these quantities will continually satisfy the equation
½(m1v1² +m2v2² + ...) = + + + ... + a constant.
The theorems of motion just cited are expressed by seven integrals, or equations expressing a law that certain functions of the variables and of the time remain constant. It is remarkable that although the seven integrals were found almost from the beginning of the investigation, no others have since been added; and indeed it has recently been shown that no others exist that can be expressed in an algebraic form. In the case of three bodies these do not suffice completely to define the motion. In this case, the problem can be attacked only by methods of approximation, devised so as to meet the special conditions of each case. The special conditions which obtain in the solar system are such as to make the necessary approximation theoretically possible however complex the process may be. These conditions are:—(1) The smallness of the masses of the planets in comparison with that of the sun, in consequence of which the orbit of each planet deviates but slightly from an ellipse during any one revolution; (2) the fact that the orbits of the planets are nearly circular, and the planes of their orbits but slightly inclined to each other. The result of these conditions is that all the quantities required admit of development in series proceeding according to the powers of the eccentricities and inclinations of the orbits, and the ratio of the masses of the several planets to the mass of the sun.
Perturbations of the Planets.—Kepler’s laws do not completely express the motion of a planet around a central body, except when no force but the mutual attraction of the two bodies comes into play. When one or more other bodies form a part of the system, their action produces deviations from the elliptic motion, which are called perturbations. The problem of determining the perturbations of the