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It contains derivation of kepler planetary orbit equation.

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We begin the derivation by defining our variables. Let one planet with mass m1 be located at

r1 and the second planet with mass m2 be located at r2 . Let us call r r1 r2 . Furthermore

let us introduce the reduced mass = (m1 m2 )/(m1 + m2 ) and the position of the center-of-mass

R = (m1 r1 + m2 r2 )/(m1 + m2 ). Now, the kinetic energy the system is

1

1

T = m1 r1 2 + m2 r2 2

2

2

(1)

we can rewrite it in terms of the reduced mass and center of mass coordinate. It is easy to show

(for instance using Griffiths QM problem 5.1) that

r1 = R +

m2

r,

m1 + m2

r2 = R

m1

r

m1 + m2

(2)

1 2 1 2

T = MR

+ r

2

2

(3)

1 2 1 2 Gm1 m2

L = MR

+ r +

2

2

r

(4)

where I have used the known Newtonian formula for the potential energy between two masses

U =

Gm1 m2

r

(5)

Now, the following procedure is made much easier by going into the center-of-mass reference frame,

= 0. Thus the Lagrangian is

so that R

1

Gm1 m2

L = r2 +

2

r

(6)

We would like to get rid of the vector r , and to do that we need to pick a coordinate system. It

turns out to be most natural, and perhaps obvious, to use polar coordinates, where r = r

r + r ,

so the Lagrangian can be written

1

Gm1 m2

L = (r 2 + r2 2 ) +

2

r

(7)

L

= r2 = const = l

l

= 2

r

(8)

Gm1 m2

r2

(9)

l2

Gm1 m2

r3

r2

(10)

r = r 2

inserting from equation 8 into equation 9 gives:

r=

This is the differential equation of motion of a planet, and solving it would give us the form of its

orbit. To solve it, we make the substitution r u1 , where u = u(). Since u is a function of

only, the time derivatives are:

dr

d(1/u)

1 du

1 du

du l

=

= 2

= 2 =

dt

dt

u dt

u d

d

(11)

where in the last equality I have used the formula for in equation 8. Then

l d du

l d d du

l2 u2 d2 u

d2 r

=

dt2

dt d

d dt d

2 d2

(12)

l2 u2 d2 u

l2 u3

=

Gm1 m2 u2

d2

d2 u

Gm1 m2

= u +

2

d

l2

(13)

We are almost there. Now let w() = u() Gm1 m2 /l2 . Then

d2 w

= w

d2

(14)

which has the well known solution w() = Acos( + ), where both A and are constants. We can

always choose = 0 by a convenient choice of , so the solution is w() = Acos(), or, going back

to u: u() = Acos() + Gm1 m2 /l2 , and finally going back to the relative position r:

r() =

1

Acos() +

Gm1 m2

l2

(15)

r() =

l2

Gm1 m2

1 + cos()

(16)

where I have called = Al2 /Gm1 m2 . This is the famous equation of planetary motion.

The theory of conic sections tells us that this is the equation (in polar coordinates) of an ellipse

with eccentricity . If we take an ellipse with semi major axis a and semi minor axis b, then the

eccentricity is defined as

b2

(17)

=1 2

a

from which it is evident that a circular orbit is the special case of = 0, a parabolic orbit is the

special case where = 1, and it turns out that a hyperbolic orbit has > 1. We can also define the

perihelion, where = 0

rmin =

l2

Gm1 m2

1+

(18)

rmax =

l2

Gm1 m2

1

as the positions of closest and farthest approach, respectively.

(19)

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