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- Kepler’s law of planetary motion for CBSE Class 11th
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Goldstein 3.10 A planet of mass M is in an orbit of eccentricity e = 1 where << 1, about the Sun.

Assume the motion of the Sun can be neglected and that only gravitational forces act. When the planet

is at its greatest distance from the Sun, it is struck by a comet of mass m, where m << M traveling in

a tangential direction. Assuming the collision is completely inelastic, find the minimum kinetic energy the

comet must have to change the new orbit to a parabola.

We are assuming the collision is head-on with the comet hitting the planet from behind relative to its

motion in an effort to knock it out of its elliptical orbit. We really only need to use some conservation laws

to work out this problem. In particular, if we assume that the comet has velocity vc and that the initial and

final velocities of the planet are v0 and v0 + v, conservation of momentum says

M v0 + mvc = (M + m)(v0 + v)

where we have discarded higher order terms in m/M . This allows us to solve for the change in the planets

velocity

m

v =

vc v0

M

The energy of the planet prior to collision is E0 < 0 such that |E0 | << 1 and the planet is in a highly

eccentric elliptical orbit. The final energy of the planet is to be such that it is in an unbound (parabolic)

orbit, i.e.

k

1

0 Ef = (M + m)(v0 + v)2

2

r

1

2

= E0 + m v0 + M v0 v

2

where we have kept terms only to linear order in our small quantities, m/M and v. This inequality can be

understood as the minimum change in velocity of the planet to move it out of its elliptic orbit:

v

mv02

E0

1+

M v0

2E0

Combining this with the earlier relation in terms of the velocities, we can find the minimum velocity (and

kinetic energy) of the comet needed to change the planets orbit to a parabola:

vc

|E0 | v0

+

mv0

2

The second term can be assumed much smaller than the first and so we discard it. The needed kinetic energy

of the comet is thus

1

|E0 |2

KEc = mvc2

2

2mv02

This isnt especially illuminating so let us express this in terms of the orbit parameters:

M k2

(1 e2 )

2 l2

l = M rv0

E0 =

= M a(1 + e) v0

=

l2

1

(1 + e) v0

k 1 e2

which are or use Goldsteins Eqns 3.61, 3.62 and 3.64. Note that we can write

v0 =

k

(1 e)

l

1

so that if we construct |E0 |/v02 , we can eliminate the l and k. Thus we have

KEc

|E0 | M 1 + e

2m 2 1 e

KEc

1 M

|E0 |

2 m

So we have two large numbers multiplying the initial energy of the planet. This is the kinetic energy which

the comet must have if it is to change the orbit of the planet.

Goldstein 3.13 (a) Show that if a particle describes a circular orbit under the influence of an attractive

central force directed toward a point on the circle, then the force varies as the inverse-fifth power of the

distance.

(b) Show that for the orbit described the total energy of the particle is zero.

(c) Find the period of the motion.

(d) Find x,

y,

and v as a function of angle around the circle and show that all three quantities are infinite

as the particle goes through the center of force.

(a) To set up coordinates in this problem, let us take the circular orbit to be centered on a two dimensional

x-y coordinate system at (x, y) = (a, 0) where a is the radius of the orbit. Note that this places the y-axis

tangent to the orbit. The particle in its orbit will have a force, F~ , always directed toward the origin in

these coordinates. We will call this direction vector ~r. At an arbitrary point on the orbit, (x, y), the particle

will have coordinates with respect to the center of the orbit of (a cos , a sin ) where is the angle which

parametrizes the location of the particle on the circle. We can, of course, also parametrize the point on the

circle using usual polar coordinates, i.e. (x, y) = (r cos , r sin ). In this way, we can relate the coordinates

x = a + a cos = r cos

y = a sin = r sin

and express the constraint that the particle remain on the circle as

2

a2 = r cos a + r2 sin

This simplifies to

r = 2a cos

This is the orbit equation.

Having found the orbit equation, we can now work backwards and find the potential that must yield

this orbit. From the energy equation, we know

V (r) = E T = E

1

2

mr 2 +

l2

2mr2

where it is still true that the angular momentum is conserved and l = mr2 .

derivative of the orbit equation:

r = 2a sin

Substituting in, we find

l 2

l2

1

m 4a2 sin2

2

2

mr

2mr2

2 2

2

2a l

l

=E

1 cos2

mr4

2mr2

r2

l2

2a2 l2

1

=E

4

2

mr

4a

2mr2

2 2

2a l

=E

mr4

and the potential has an inverse quartic form. The resulting force will be an inverse fifth power of r. The

extra constant, E, is just that, a constant and corresponds to the zero of potential. We set it to zero and

thereby complete part (b).

V (r) = E

(c) To get the period of the motion, we can recall Keplers third law about equal areas being swept out in

equal times. Our current problem, of course, is not the original Kepler problem with an inverse square force.

3

However, this law follows from conservation of angular momentum and not from the particular power law

for the central force. As a result, it is still true that the angular momentum is given by

l = mr2

which is still related to the areal velocity, dA/dt, by

dA

1

= r2

dt

2

In particular, we have that dA/dt is a constant and the time, , it takes to sweep out the entire circular

orbit will come from 2mA = l with A being given by a2 . Thus, we have

=

2ma2

l

(d) The components of velocity in our coordinates are given by taking the time derivatives of our coordinates

above and using the form of the orbit equation:

x = r cos r sin

= 4a sin cos

l

mr2

y = r sin + r cos

l

= 2a cos 2

mr2

= 2a sin 2

which both blow up as the origin of coordinates (and the center of force) is approached. Note that the total

veloctiy also blows up:

p

2al

|v| = x 2 + y 2 =

mr2

Goldstein 3.19 A particle moves in a force field described by the Yukawa potential

k

V (r) = er/a

r

where k and a are positive.

(a) Write the equations of motion and reduce them to the equivalent one-dimensional problem. Use the

effective potential to discuss the qualitative nature of the orbits for different values of the energy and the

angular momentum.

(b) Show that if the orbit is nearly circular, the apsides will advance approximately by /a per revolution,

where is the radius of the circular orbit.

(a) The Lagrangian for this system is

L=

k

1

m r 2 + r2 2 + er/a .

2

r

continues to be a cyclic coordinate, hence l = mr2 is a conserved quantity, namely the angular momentum.

The other equation of motion is

k 1 1 r/a

l2

e

+

+

0 = m

r

3

mr

r r

a

Multiplying this by r and integrating, we get a conserved energy

1

l2

k

mr 2 +

er/a

2

2

2mr

r

E=

Veff (r)

l2

+ V (r)

2mr2

Considering the effective potential and its form, we can extract considerable information about the

orbits possible in this central force field. First of all, define the dimensionless parameter b = l2 /(2mka) and

the dimensionless variable x = r/a. We now write the effective potential in these dimensionless quantites as

Veff =

ex i

kh b

a x2

x

We know that for critical points of this potential, we can get circular orbits. In particular, we find

0

Veff

=

i

k 1 h

x

x(x

+

1)

e

2b

a x3

The critical points of the effective potential will be found for radial values where

x(x + 1) ex = 2b

Notice that the left hand side rises from 0 to a maximum and then falls off towards 0 as x . As a result,

if b is small enough, there will be two solutions to this equation, call them x1 and x2 such that x1 < x2 . It

is clear from a graph of the function that the slope of the left hand side is positive at x1 and negative at

0

x2 (the x3 prefactor in Veff

will not affect the consequences of this analysis). Hence the effective potential

will have a local minimum at x1 and a local maximum at x2 . If b gets larger, these two critical points merge

into an inflection point in the effective potential and for yet larger b values, there are no solutions to this

equation and the effective potential has no local critical points and hence will be purely repulsive for all

5

incoming particles of any energy and cannot result in any bound orbits. Recall that b will be a measure of

the angular momentum of the incoming particles.

To categorize the possible orbits, we first assume that b, or the angular momentum is small enough that

there will be a local minimum and maximum in the effective potential. In this case, there will be both bound

orbits and unbound orbits. The bound orbits will result for particles with energies Veff (x1 ) E < Veff (x2 )

and with turning points at radii such that xtp < x2 . There will be a circular orbit at E = Veff (x1 ). The

unbound orbits come in essentially two types. For energies E > Veff (x2 ), particles will come in, experience a

single turning point at a radius x < x1 due to the repulsive barrier, deflect and move away from the center.

There are other unbound orbits for which the energy of the particle lies below the local maximum of the

effective potential: E < Veff (x2 ). These are orbits that come in from infinity, reach a turning at a radius

larger than the location of the local maximum: xtp > x2 and then move off to infinity again.

If the angular momentum is exactly such that the effective potential has an inflection point, there will

be the sole (unstable) bound orbit while the others will be unbound orbits with a single turning point.

If the angular momentum is large enough there will be no bound orbits and all particles will be unbound

with a single turning point.

Goldstein 3.21 Show that the motion of a particle in the potential field

V (r) =

h

k

+ 2

r

r

is the same as that of the motion under the Kepler potential alone when expressed in terms of a coordinate

system rotating or precessing around the center of force.

For negative total energy, show that if the additional potential term is very small compared to the

Kepler potential, then the angular speed of precession of the elliptical orbit is

2mh

= 2 .

l

The perihelion of Mercury is observed to precess (after correction for known planetary perturbations) at

the rate of about 4000 of arc per century. Show that this precession could be accounted for classically if the

dimensionless quantity

h

=

ka

(which is a measure of the perturbing inverse-square potential relative to the gravitational potential) were

as small as 7 108 . (The eccentricity of Mercurys orbit is 0.206 , and its period is 0.24 year.)

The new part of the potential will contribute a term to the force which will have the same r-dependance

as the centripetal term: l2 /mr3 . Indeed, the r equation of motion becomes

0 = m

r

l2

k

2h

+ 2 3

3

mr

r

r

We

while the equation of motion (conservation of angular momentum) is unchanged, i.e. l = mr2 .

can rewrite this in

the

same

form

as

the

original

equation

for

the

Kepler

problem

with

a

shifted

angular

momentum: l0 = l2 + 2mh, or

l02

k

0 = m

r

2

3

mr

r

If we now want to use l0 in this form, we also need to go back to the equation and realize a rescaling in

that equation:

l0

l0 = mr2 = mr2 0

l

where we have rescaled by a constant amount

r

0

1+

2mh

l2

In terms of r and 0 , the equations take the same form as the original Kepler problem and will have the

same solutions, but now referenced to r(t) and 0 (t) and using l0 for the angular momentum. In particular,

the orbit equation is

1

= C 1 + e cos 0 00

r

where

C=

and

e=

mk

l02

2El02

mk 2

7

If we want to think in terms of the original variables in the problem, r and , we write

h

p

i

1

1 + 2mh/l2 ( 0 )

= C 1 + e cos

r

and we can view the rescaling of as a change in the period of the orbit given by

P =p

2

1 + 2mh/l2

This suggests the view that an orbiting particle (with e < 1) will come back to the same r value without

necessarily closing the orbit as will have traversed an amount less than 2. Hence, the orbit itself will

precess. Assuming that the ratio mh/l2 is small, the difference with the Keplerian value will be

mh

2

2 2

= 2 p

2

l

1 + 2mh/l

The angular velocity of the precession will be given by / where is the time it takes to traverse the

orbit. We can take it to be the unperturbed, Keplerian value. So the angular velocity, is

2mh

= 2

l

Notice that this is the amount that the orbit fails to catch up to its original (Keplerian) value, i.e. the

precession is backwards.

Note that the angular velocity can be expressed in terms of the orbital parameters as

2mh

2

2mh

=

=

= 2

2

l

mka(1 e )

(1 e2 )

and the effect is most pronounced for highly elliptical orbits, e.g. 1 e << 1. In the case of Mercury, a

precession of 43 arcseconds per century is the same as

43 (2/360) (1/3600)rad

=

= 2.1 106 rad/year

100 year

Solving for with this data (and e = 0.206 and = 0.24 year), we get

=

h

(1 e2 )

7.6 108

ka

2

Goldstein 3.22 The additional term in the potential behaving as r2 in Exercise 21 looks very much like

the centrifugal barrier term in the equivalent one-dimensional potential. Why is it then that the additional

force term causes a precession of the orbit, while an addition to the barrier, through a change in l, does not?

The easiest way to see this is that the additional term in the potential in the last problem affects only

the equation of motion for r. The equation of motion for (conservation of angular momentum) is left

unchanged. In consequence of this, as we saw, there must be a rescaling of the angular coordinate as well as

the angular momentum in order to interpret the equations with respect to the original problem. This led,

then, to the interpretation that our orbit was precessing.

In the case where we simply increase (or decrease) the angular momentum itself, while there is a change

(rescaling if you will) in the angular momentum, this change appears in both the r and equations without

correspondingly requiring a rescaling of .

In equations, we have the following when we add h/r2 to the potential. The effective potential becomes

k

h

l2

+ 2

2mr2

r

r

k

l02

=

2

2mr

r

Veff =

where l02 = l2 + 2mh is the new angular momentum. Note, however, that the conserved angular momentum

is technically unchanged:

l = mr2 .

To incorporate the new angular momentum here, we must rescale

l0 = mr2

l0

On the other hand, consider increasing the angular momentum as l0 = l + l0 where l0 is that angular

momentum needed to give us l0 (for comparisons sake). In this case, the effective potential becomes

k

(l + l0 )2

2mr2

r

k

l02

=

2mr2

r

Veff =

but the definition of the conserved angular momentum must also shift:

l0 = l + l0 = mr2

In effect, the addition of angular momentum does not change the nature of the orbits in any way. The

equations can be thought of as invariant under the shift in angular momentum. The types of orbits remain

the same. However, adding an additional term to the potential, even of the same form as the centrifugal

barrier, causes a material change in the equations (in this case, in the evolution of ). We interpret this

change through a rescaling of the angle and hence a precession in the orbit.

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