Around and around
The aim of modern celestial mechanics is to compute and predict the motion of celestial bodies, either natural or man-made. In ancient times it was part of the newly born astronomical sciences that exploited the knowledge of the regular movements of the constellations and the erratic motion of the planets (including lunar phenomena) for both religious beliefs and everyday life (such as the compilation of calendars). The concept of orbit was introduced after the development of cosmological models, and it dominated the evolution of celestial mechanics as a science. The Copernican revolution, the subsequent discovery by Kepler of the eccentricity of planetary orbits, and the Newtonian synthesis unveiling gravity, provided a model for the motion of celestial bodies which still holds today. Circles, ellipses, parabolas and hyperbolas — despite their simplicity from a geometrical point of view — represent the key to understanding the dynamical evolution of our Solar System and beyond.
KeywordsSolar System Celestial Body Orbit Determination Celestial Mechanic Semimajor Axis
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