SPIN-ORBIT RESONANCE BETWEEN TWO

PLANETARY BODIES
Date of Submission: 20 November 2006
By
________________________________
Harsh Menon
menon387@erau.edu
Student ID: 1010682
Box#8275
Submitted to Dr. Brian Rachford
Department of Physics
College of Arts & Sciences
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements
Of
EP 420.01 Planetary Physics
Fall 2006
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Prescott, Arizona
Spin-orbit Resonance 2
FOREWORD
The writing of this paper has been an incredible journey through planetary physics and
tidal physics. My work in this paper has been heavily derived from the book Solar
System Dynamics (1999) by Murray & McDermott which I used a textbook to study the
material from. I would like to take this opportunity to cite them as the major source of
this document from which all of the concepts have originated.
Spin-orbit Resonance 3
1.0 SPIN-ORBIT COUPLING IN PLANETARY BODIES
1.1 Technical Definitions
Pericenter: The point on any orbit nearest to the center of attraction. For bodies revolving
around the sun, the pericenter is known as the perihelion (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
True Anomaly: The angular distance, measured in the orbital plane from the center of the
planet from the pericenter to the current location of the orbiting body. (Schmitz, 2005)
Mean Motion: The speed which a planet or its satellite would have if it were moving in a
circular orbit with radius equal to its distance from the sun or a central planet with a
period equal to its actual period (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
Mean Anomaly: The product of an orbiting body's mean motion and time past perihelion
passage (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2006).
Libration: Any oscillatory rotational motion, such as that of the moon, or of a molecule in
a solid which does not have enough energy to make full rotations (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
In case of the moon, it is the effect wherein the face of the moon appears to swing east
and west about 8 from its central position each month (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
Separatrix: A phase path separating locally bounded motion from locally unbounded
motion (Thornton & Marion, 2004).
1.2 Tidal Forces
Tidal forces are forces created on one body by another because of the effect of a
“gravitational gradient or variation of the gravitational force across the body” (Murray &
Dermott, 1999). In the case of a satellite orbiting a planet, the tidal force on side of the
Spin-orbit Resonance 4
planet facing the satellite will be greater than the other side. This in turn will lead to what
is known as a tidal bulge, since none of the bodies in the solar system is perfectly rigid
(Murray & Dermott, 1999).
Consider the situation depicted below, where two planetary bodies of different masses
and sizes are orbiting one another:
Figure 1.1: Tidal Forces between two planetary bodies.
The tidal acceleration on the larger planetary body due to the smaller body has two
effects on the larger body – the acceleration tends to compress the larger planetary body
on the top and bottom and elongate it in the left and right directions (along the line
joining the centers of the two planets) (Cole & Woolfson, 2002).
The magnitude of this acceleration is given by Equation 1.1:
R
GMr
A · Equation 1.1
where G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass of the smaller body, r is the radius of
the larger body and R is the distance between the centers of the bodies.
Permanent Quadrupole Moment
Spin-orbit Resonance 5
Permanent Quadrupole Moment
The external gravitational field of a deformed body can be defined by determining the
body’s gravitational quadrupole moment. The moments of inertia and products of inertia
are defined in Equation 1.2 below:
∑ ∑
∑ ∑
∑ ∑
· + ·
· + ·
· + ·
mxy F y x m C
mzx E z x m B
myz D z y m A
δ δ
δ δ
δ δ
) (
) (
) (
2 2
2 2
2 2
Equation 1.2
where δm is a mass element in the body and x,y and z are the coordinates in the x y and z
directions.
Using the moments of inertia and products of inertia, and choosing a coordinate axes that
coincides with the axes of symmetry of an ellipsoid, we can define what is known as the
ellipsoid of inertia. The ellipsoid of inertia is an invariant of the body. The ellipsoid of
inertia has the property that any body regardless of its shape will have three perpendicular
axes and that the moment of inertia is maximum about one of the axes, minimum about
another and is either an intermediate or equal to the one of the other two for the third axis
(Murray & McDermott, 1999).
The derivation of the rotational equation of motion of a satellite due to a torque exterted
on its permanent quadrupole moment can be obtained using a simplified approach as
shown by Murray & McDermott (1999). We can represent a satellite with a permanent
quadrupole moment by a spherical satellite with two point masses diametrically opposite
to each other in the orbital plane as shown in the figure below:
Spin-orbit Resonance 6
Figure 1.2: Simplified representation of the permanent quadrupole moment.
In the figure above, r
1
and r
2
are the distances of the point masses from the center of the
planet. The angle ψ is the angle between the line joining the planet and the satellite
centers and the principal axis. If the satellite has a mean radius R
s
then the torques on the
satellite due to the gravitational forces between the planet and the point masses are:
β
α
sin
sin
2
2
2
2
1
1
s
p s
s
p s
R
r
m m
G N
R
r
m m
G N
− ·
·
where the angles α and β are defined below:
ψ β
ψ α
sin sin
sin sin
2
1
r
r
r
r
·
·
Therefore by combining these equations and summing the torques we get the equation of
motion:
0 2 sin ) (
2
3
3
· − − ψ θ
r
GM
A B C
p
 
Equation 1.3
An important parameter is the asphericity parameter which is defined in Equation 1.4
Spin-orbit Resonance 7
C
A B ) ( 3 −
· α Equation 1.4
The asphericity parameter, as the name suggests, physically represents deviations of the
planetary body from a spherical shape. This parameter is purely geometric as it only
depends on the moments of inertia of the body.
Spin-Orbit Resonance
The gravitational interaction between a planet’s orbital angular momentum and the
quadrupole moment of its satellite result in oscillations. In the event of there being a
simple integer or near integer relationship between the spin period of a satellite and the
orbital period of a satellite, we get significant spin-orbit coupling (Murray & Dermott,
1999). The following derivation is based on the work of Goldreich & Peale (1966, 1968),
Wisdom, Peale & Mignard (1984), and Wisdom (1987a, b).
Figure 1.3: Spin-Orbit Coupling.
Spin-orbit Resonance 8
In the figure above, θ is the angle between the fixed horizontal axis and the current
position of the satellite. ψ is the angle that the satellite makes with the satellite-planet
centerline. Therefore, we get a relationship for the true anomaly f below:
θ ψ − · f
Equation 1.5
In the absence of tidal torques, the equation of motion for θ is
0 2 sin ) (
2
3
3
· − − ψ θ
r
GM
A B C
p
 
Equation 1.6
The equation above in non-integrable because r and ψ vary non-linearly with time.
However, since we are only concerned with cases in which θ

is a rational multiple of the
mean motion, we can introduce a new variable
pM − · θ γ
Equation 1.7
where M is the mean anomaly and where we impose the restriction on p that it has to be
rational. Taking the second derivative of the equation above and replacing θ
 
with
γ 
, we
get the equation below
0 ) 2 2 2 sin(
2
3
3
2
· − +
,
`

.
|

,
`

.
| −
+ f pM
r
a
C
A B
n γ γ  Equation 1.8
The above equation can be expanded in a Fourier-like Poisson series in terms of e and M
using expressions for (a/r)
3
, sin f and cos f, using the expressions listed below
) 2 cos 3 1 (
2
3
cos 3 1
3 cos
8
9
) 1 2 (cos cos
8
9
1 cos
3 sin
8
9
2 sin sin
8
7
1 sin
2
3
2 2
2 2
M e M e
r
a
M e M e M e f
M e M e M e f
+ + + ·
,
`

.
|
+ − +
,
`

.
|
− ·
+ +
,
`

.
|
− ·
Equation 1.9
Putting these equations back into Equation 1.8, we get the following equation
Spin-orbit Resonance 9
0 ) 2 cos ] [ 2 sin ] ([
2
3
4 3 2 1
2
· − + +
,
`

.
| −
+ γ γ γ S S S S
C
A B
n  
Equation 1.10
where
f pM
r
a
S f pM
r
a
S
f pM
r
a
S f pM
r
a
S
2 sin 2 cos 2 cos 2 sin
2 sin 2 sin 2 cos 2 cos
3
4
3
3
3
2
3
1

,
`

.
|
·
,
`

.
|
·

,
`

.
|
·
,
`

.
|
·
Equation 1.11
before putting in the expansions. An expansion of the terms above shows that S
1
and S
2

contain only cosines while S
3
and S
4
contain only sines. If we make the further
assumption that the spin rate of the satellite is close to that required for spin-orbit
coupling, then pn ≈ θ

. Also since γ is varying slowly, we can create an approximate
equation of motion by averaging all the terms in Equation 1.10 and holding γ constant to
obtain
0 ) 2 cos ] [ 2 sin ] ([
2
3
4 3 2 1
2
· > < − > < + > < + > <
,
`

.
| −
+ γ γ γ S S S S
C
A B
n  
where

· >· <
π
π
2
0
4 , 3 , 2 , 1 ,
2
1
i dM S S
i i
The sines and cosines that are integer multiples of M average out to 0 over one orbital
period and therefore the only terms that contribute to the equation of motion are cosine
terms with zero arguments. To generalize that statement, we can rewrite the equation of
motion as
0 2 sin ) , (
2
3
2
·
,
`

.
| −
+ γ γ e p H
C
A B
n  
Equation 1.12
where
Spin-orbit Resonance 10
4 3
3 4 2 3
4 4
16
533
) , 3 (
48
845
) ,
2
5
(
16
123
2
7
) ,
2
3
(
16
1
2
5
1 ) , 1 (
16
1
2
1
) ,
2
1
(
0 ) , 0 (
48
1
) ,
2
1
(
24
1
) , 1 (
e e H e e H
e e e H e e e H e e e H
e H e e H e e H
· ·
− · + − · + − ·
· · − · −
In the above equations, the p=0 case is a non-resonant case.
Therefore, through the use of approximations, we have reduced the equation of motion to
the pendulum equation of motion, which can be written as
γ ω γ 2 sin
2
1
))] , ( ( [
2
0
e p H sign − ·  
Equation 1.13
where ω
0
is defined as the libration frequency and is given by the following equation
5 . 0
0
) , ( 3
]
]
]

,
`

.
| −
· e p H
C
A B
n ω Equation 1.14
Librations are the oscillations produced as a result of the spin-orbit resonance.
The presence of tidal torques acting to brake the spin of the satellite can be taken into
account by adding a term representing the mean tidal torque averaged over the orbital
period , <N
s
> , to the equation of motion
C
N
e p H sign
s
> <
+ − · γ ω γ 2 sin
2
1
))] , ( ( [
2
0
 
Equation 1.15
The strength criterion for a satellite is thus defined as
2
2
0
ω
<
> <
C
N
s
Equation 1.16
If the strength criterion is met, then the mean torque due to the resonant interactions
between the planet and the quadrupole moment of the satellite compensates for the mean
tidal torque acting to change the spin period of a satellite and the angle γ librates about an
equilibrium value γ
0
given by
Spin-orbit Resonance 11
]
]
]
]


> <
·

C e p signH
N
s
2
0
1
0
) , ( [
2
sin
2
1
ω
γ
Equation 1.17
If the mean tidal torque is weak compared to the resonant torque, and if H(p,e) > 0 and γ
0
is 0 or π, then the long axis of the satellite points towards the planet on pericenter
passage. Conversely, if H(p,e) < 0 and γ
0
is π/2 or 3 π/ 2, then the long axis of the satellite
points in a direction perpendicular to the planet-satellite line on pericenter passage
(Murray & McDermott, 1999).
This leads into the physical meaning of the angle γ. It describes the “orientation of the
long axis of the satellite on the passage of the satellite through the pericenter or that it is a
stroboscopic angle that is evaluated when M=0” (Murray & Dermott, 1999).
As an example, consider the rotation of Mercury. Mercury is in a 3:2 spin-orbit
resonance, which means that for every two revolutions around the sun, Mercury
completes 3 rotations. We expect that γ = 0 since H(p,e) = +(7/2)e and therefore the long
axis of the planet should point towards the Sun at perihelion. This can be seen in the
figure below:
Figure 1.4: Mercury’s rotation around the Sun.
Spin-orbit Resonance 12
The figure below shows the motion of the Sun around Mercury from a frame of reference
centered on Mercury and rotating with Mercury’s resonant spin rate (3/2)n:
Figure 1.5: Motion of the Sun as seen in an inertial frame centered on Mercury.
As can be seen in the figure above, the path of the Sun is closed. This is a consequence of
spin-orbit resonance and is also used as a necessary condition for spin-orbit coupling. The
points on the figure represent the positions of the Sun at regularly spaced time intervals.
The reason why there are loops in the figure above are due to the rotation of Mercury. On
an average, Mercury rotates 4 degrees around the sun and 6 degrees about its own axis
per day (Seligman, 2006). The westward motion of the stars is due to Mercury’s rotation
and is opposite to the eastward motion of the Sun due to Mercury’s orbital motion
(Seligman, 2006).
At aphelion, the orbital rotation rate of Mercury slows down to less than 3 degrees. At
perihelion, the orbital rotation rate of Mercury increases to about 6 degrees. Therefore, at
perihelion, the orbital motion is about equal and opposite to the rotational motion. As a
result of this, from an inertial frame centered on Mercury, the Sun stops, moves slowly in
the opposite direction and then returns on its original path (Seligman, 2006). This
explains the presence of a loop in the trajectory of the Sun as seen from Mercury. The
Spin-orbit Resonance 13
reason why there are two loops is because the inertial frame is moving at higher
rotational rate than that of Mercury, i.e., (3/2)n.
The gravitational interaction between the permanent quadrupole moment of Mercury and
the Sun can be modeled by a technique described by Murray & Dermott (1999). In their
technique, the gravitational interaction is modeled by “spreading the mass of the Sun
around the closed path with a local line density proportional to the time spent in that part
of the path or by a uniform line density that does not contribute to the torque plus two
point masses” as shown in the figure below (1999):
Figure 1.5: Representation of gravitational interaction using point masses.
This method yields a new description of the angle γ – the deviation of the long axis of the
planet from the planet-perihelion direction in the rotating frame shown above (Murray &
Dermott 1999).
In addition to the path of the body being closed, another requirement for resonance is that
p has to be an integer multiple of 1/2. This can be explained using the graphical method
described earlier. Consider the figure below where p is not an integer multiple of 1/2:
Spin-orbit Resonance 14
Figure 1.6: Motion of a body where p is not an integer multiple of 1/2.
In the figure above, the gravitational interaction can be modeled as three separate point
masses and a uniform line density so that the total torque acting on the satellite is given
by the following equation

,
`

.
|
− −
,
`

.
|
+ + γ
π
γ
π
γ
3
2 sin
3
2 sin 2 sin N N N
Equation 1.18
This equation evaluates to zero rendering the system neutrally stable, confirming the
requirement that p has to be an integer multiple of 1/2 or else the system will not exhibit
resonance.
For a satellite to be trapped in spin-orbit resonance, the third requirement is that the
torque acting on the satellite must be greater than the torque due to tidal drag. This leads
to a critical condition which can be expressed by the following equation:
) , (
1
2
5
3
2
e p H m
m
a
R
Q
k
C
A B
s
p
s
critical

,
`

.
|
·
,
`

.
| −
Equation 1.19
where m
p
is the mass of the primary orbiting body (for Mercury the sun), a is the semi-
major axis and k
2
and Q are empirical values.
Spin-orbit Resonance 15
Using orbital eccentricities of 0.0549 for the Moon and 0.206 for Mercury, we obtain (B-
A)/C = 2.28 x 10
-4
for the Moon. The (B-A)/C value for Mercury can be assumed to be
the same (Yoder 1995). We can now compare these values to the critical values for both
planets listed below:
Table 1.1: Critical Values for Mercury and the Moon.
(Murray & McDermott, 1999)
p Mercury Moon
(B-A)/C (critical) (B-A)/C (critical)
3 2 x 10
-8
7 x 10
-5
5/2 7 x 10
-9
7 x 10
-6
2 3 x 10
-9
8 x 10
-7
3/2 2 x 10
-9
1 x 10
-7
1 1 x 10
-9
2 x 10
-8
From the table above, we can see why Mercury and the Moon are in a stable spin-orbit
resonance.
Capture into Resonance
Consider the evolution of the spin rate of a satellite on encounter with a spin-orbit
resonance. Initially, it is assumed that pn > θ

and that the tidal force acts to reduce the
spin of the satellite. Adding the mean torque as a forcing function to the equation of
motion of γ, we get
( ) > ·< − +
s
N e p H A B n C γ γ 2 sin ) , (
2
3
2
 
Equation 1.20
If we integrate the equation above, we obtain the energy integral which can be seen
below:
Spin-orbit Resonance 16
( ) E e p H A B n C · − − γ
γ
2 cos ) , (
4
3
2
2
2

Equation 1.21
where E is the total energy equal to the energy due to the application of the torque as well
as any initial energy present in the system, given by the following equation:
0
E N E
s
+ > ·< γ
Equation 1.22
For the energy integral equation to have any physical solutions, we need to have
( ) ) , (
4
3
2
e p H A B n E − − ≥ Equation 1.23
However, if the above equation is true, then the sign of
γ
does not change, which
physically means that satellite is in a circulating orbit where resonance cannot occur.
However, since we know that <N
s
> acts to reduce the total energy E, we can conclude
that resonance occurs when
γ
is reduced to 0.
The figures below illustrate the variation of
2
γ
with γ, and breakdown of the variation of
2
γ
into two components – a sinusoidal as well as a linear term. The linear term decreases
linearly before resonance and increases linearly after resonance.
Figure 1.7: Variation of
2
γ
with γ.
The first figure is obtained by taking the difference of the two components. If the average
tidal torque is a constant, then the equation of motion becomes one that is completely
Spin-orbit Resonance 17
reversible. This means that the sign of
γ
changes at resonance, but the trajectory of the
system in γ,
γ
space after resonance duplicates that before resonance and therefore,
capture into resonance cannot occur.
Resonance without capture is explained by Goldreich and Peale (1968) using a pendulum
analogy. Consider a pendulum swinging acting under the influence of a constant torque
acting to reduce its rotation. After a period of time, the pendulum loses all of its kinetic
energy and its rotation rate is reduced to zero. However, at this point, the torque is still
acting on the pendulum and hence it gains kinetic energy and beings to swing again –
only now its rotation rate is in the opposite direction.
Thus using this analogy we can list three requirements for capture into resonance:
1. The average tidal torque must vary with
γ
2. The decrease in energy during the “last swing of the pendulum” before resonance
must be greater than the increase in energy after resonance to prevent the
“pendulum” from swinging over its “point of support”
Surface of Section
Assuming pn ≈ θ

, we can analyze the motion of an object close to resonance.
We can gain greater insight into the problem if we plot the variations of
n
θ

with θ, using
the energy integral , which can be represented as shown below without any tidal torques:
C
E
e p H sign
0
2
0
2
2 cos )] , ( [
4
1
2
· − γ ω
γ
Equation 1.24
where E
0
is a constant determined by the initial conditions. The figure below shows a
plot of the aforementioned quantities:
Spin-orbit Resonance 18
Figure 1.8: Analytical Variation of
n
θ

with θ.
In the above figure, the eccentricity was chosen to be 0.1 and the asphericity parameter
was chosen to be 0.2. The figure above shows analytic solutions for resonances
corresponding to p=1/2, 1 and 3/2 as well as the non-resonant p=0 case. The analytical
lines represent separatrices that separate motions of libration (inside) from those of
circulation (outside). As long as the object is inside the separatrix, it is in stable
equilibrium.
From the figure, we can draw the following conclusions:
1. For p values of 1 and 3/2, for which H(p,e) > 0, there exist stable equilibrium
points at θ = 0 and θ = π.
2. For p = 1/2, for which H(p,e) < 0, a stable equilibrium point exists at θ = π/2
In all cases, for
0 · γ
, solving the energy integral, we get that the follow requirement
must be met at the stable equilibrium points
C E
2
0 0
4
1
ω − · Equation 1.25
where E
0
is a local minimum at the stable equilibrium points.
For values of E
0
that lie in the range shown below,
Spin-orbit Resonance 19
C E C
2
0 0
2
0
4
1
4
1
ω ω + ≤ ≤ − Equation 1.26
γ librates about the equilibrium position with an amplitude determined by E
0
.
The value of E
0
associated with the separatrix is
C E
2
0 0
4
1
ω · Equation 1.27
The analytical solution assumed that each resonance can be investigated in isolation and
that the averaged effect of all other resonances and librations is zero ((Murray & Dermott,
1999). We can compare the analytical results with a numerical solution obtained by
numerically integrating the complete equation of motion (Equation 1.6) to check the
validity of the analytical solution. However, instead of showing the complete variation of
n
θ

and θ with time, a more efficient way of representation is to use a surface of section.
The surface of section is a Poincaré section plot which involves solving the full equation
of motion numerically and plotting the values of
n
θ

and θ every time the body passes
through the pericenter.
The numerical surface of section for the same values of eccentricity and the asphericity
parameter are shown below for p = 1, 1/2 and 3/2
Spin-orbit Resonance 20
Figure 1.9: Numerical Surface of Section for p=1, 1/2 and 3/2.
From the figure above, we can see that the numerical surface of section qualitatively has
the same form as the analytical solution. However, a closer inspection shows that the
numerical solution does have distinct differences from the analytical solution, the most
pronounced difference being for p = 1. The fuzzy appearance at the center of the
separatrix is due to chaotic and wanders within certain finite limits (Murray & Dermott,
1999).
Consider another case where e=0.15 and α=0.3 for p=1 and p=3/2. In this case, the
separatrices seem to overlap at θ = 0 and θ = π , suggesting simultaneous libration in two
spin-orbit states, which is impossible. The analytical and numerical solutions can be seen
below:
Figure 1.10: Analytical and Numerical Surface of Sections for a chaotic system.
Spin-orbit Resonance 21
The numerical solution shows widespread chaos and this leads into Chirikov’s resonance
overlap criterion. In simple terms, Chirikov’s criterion states that when the distance
between the centers of two stable regions is equal or overlaps then large scale chaos
ensues (Murray & McDermott, 1999).
Small irregular satellites with nearly circular orbits such as Deimos have been found to
have significant chaos zones (Wisdom 1987a,b). The amount of chaotic behavior depends
linearly on the eccentricity and exponentially on the asphericity parameter. The chaos is
measured by a parameter known as the width of the chaotic separatrix. Without getting
into the details of this parameter, we can predict the amount of chaotic zones a satellite or
planet will have on the basis of this parameter. The Moon and Mercury have smaller
chaotic zones whereas irregular bodies such as Hyperion have a greater number of
chaotic zones due to the exponential dependence on the asphericity parameter.
Conclusion
Spin-orbit resonance is caused by the interaction of the gravitational quadrupole moment
of a planet and the orbital angular momentum of its satellite. Spin-orbit resonance
between the two bodies results in librations of the satellite and a spin-resonance torque.
The resonance is analogous to the motion of a pendulum and has a frequency equal to the
libration frequency. Three criteria for spin-orbit resonance are that the path of the planet
or star as seen from the satellite must be closed, the term p must be an integer multiple of
1/2 and the resonant torque must greater than the tidal drag torque.
Capture into resonance is also analogous to pendulum motion. However, the difference
lies in the fact that once caught in resonance, the satellite must remain there and its
amplitude must therefore decrease once caught in resonance.
Spin-orbit Resonance 22
The analytical predictions of spin-orbit resonance can be compared with numerical
solutions using surfaces of section. These surfaces give insight into the trajectory of the
orbiting bodies and show chaotic deviations from the analytical solutions.
The treatment of spin-orbit resonance presented in this paper is only a cursory theory and
greater insights about spin-orbit resonance can be obtained by using the Hamiltonian
approach. The Hamiltonian approach is beyond the scope of this report.
Spin-orbit Resonance 23
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Schmitz, D. (2005). Glossary of GPS Terms. Retrieved November 19, 2006, from
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