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Concept# Kepler problem

Summary

In classical mechanics, the Kepler problem is a special case of the two-body problem, in which the two bodies interact by a central force F that varies in strength as the inverse square of the distance r between them. The force may be either attractive or repulsive. The problem is to find the position or speed of the two bodies over time given their masses, positions, and velocities. Using classical mechanics, the solution can be expressed as a Kepler orbit using six orbital elements.
The Kepler problem is named after Johannes Kepler, who proposed Kepler's laws of planetary motion (which are part of classical mechanics and solved the problem for the orbits of the planets) and investigated the types of forces that would result in orbits obeying those laws (called Kepler's inverse problem).
For a discussion of the Kepler problem specific to radial orbits, see Radial trajectory. General relativity provides more accurate solutions to the two-body problem, especially in strong gravitational fields.
The Kepler problem arises in many contexts, some beyond the physics studied by Kepler himself. The Kepler problem is important in celestial mechanics, since Newtonian gravity obeys an inverse square law. Examples include a satellite moving about a planet, a planet about its sun, or two binary stars about each other. The Kepler problem is also important in the motion of two charged particles, since Coulomb’s law of electrostatics also obeys an inverse square law. Examples include the hydrogen atom, positronium and muonium, which have all played important roles as model systems for testing physical theories and measuring constants of nature.
The Kepler problem and the simple harmonic oscillator problem are the two most fundamental problems in classical mechanics. They are the only two problems that have closed orbits for every possible set of initial conditions, i.e., return to their starting point with the same velocity (Bertrand's theorem).

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In celestial mechanics, a Kepler orbit (or Keplerian orbit, named after the German astronomer Johannes Kepler) is the motion of one body relative to another, as an ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola, which forms a two-dimensional orbital plane in three-dimensional space. A Kepler orbit can also form a straight line. It considers only the point-like gravitational attraction of two bodies, neglecting perturbations due to gravitational interactions with other objects, atmospheric drag, solar radiation pressure, a non-spherical central body, and so on.

In classical mechanics, the two-body problem is to predict the motion of two massive objects which are abstractly viewed as point particles. The problem assumes that the two objects interact only with one another; the only force affecting each object arises from the other one, and all other objects are ignored. The most prominent case of the classical two-body problem is the gravitational case (see also Kepler problem), arising in astronomy for predicting the orbits (or escapes from orbit) of objects such as satellites, planets, and stars.

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