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Maurizio M. D’Eliseo∗

Osservatorio S.Elmo - Via A.Caccavello 22, 80129 Napoli Italy The relativistic precession of a planetary orbit is treated from the point of view of the analytic geometry of a conic on the plane. I. THE UNPERTURBED ORBIT

We need the vectorial expression of the conic described by an unperturbed planet (considered as a test-body) around a star located at the origin. If we let r = rˆ r √ be the position vector, where r = r · r, we have the ﬁrst-order system dr = v, dt dv µ ˆ = − 2 r, dt r (1)

being the eccentricity vector, directed toward the perihelion, and whose length is the usual scalar eccentricity e. The eccentricity vector is situated, as one can see, in the plane of motion. So, we have constantly a closed vector triangle formed by the variable vectors −v × h, µˆ and r the constant vector µe. The orbit is obtained dotting Eq. (9) with r µe · r = (v × h) · r − µr, but (10)

(2)

r · (v × h) = (r × v) · h = h · h = h2 , and so we get h·h √ = r · r + e · r. µ h2 = r + er cos(θ − ω). µ (11) (12)

where µ = GM is the standard gravitational parameter of the star. Operating on Eq. (2) by r×, we get dv d µ ˆ r× = (r × v) = − 2 r × r = 0, dt dt r and integrating, r × v = h = const. Since (r × v) · r = 0, (5) (4) (3)

the motion takes place in the plane h · r = 0. We will match this plane with the xy-plane. By considering the inﬁnitesimal triangle formed by the vectors r and dr, we see that |r × v| is twice the area swept out by the radius vector per unit time. In polar coordinates, twice the area of the triangle swept out in time dt and per unit time are respectively r(rdθ), so we have ˆ ˙ˆ h = hh = r2 θh. (7) ˙ r2 θ, (6)

where we have assumed as reference direction for angles the positive x-axis, and denoted with ω the ﬁxed angle formed by e. Equation (12) is the polar expression of the magnitude of the radius vector from which, comparing with the polar equation of a conic, we deduce that h2 = µa(1 − e2 ), being a the semimajor axis of the orbit. We will assume that e < 0, that is the conic is an ellipse. Notice, in particular, that r is comprised between a(1 − e) ≤ r ≤ a(1 + e), (13)

**and that the minimum occurs at the point of orbit when θ = ω.
**

II. THE PERTURBED ORBIT

To get the orbit, we need one more integral of motion: the Laplace integral. We consider the time derivative of the cross product dv µh dˆ r d ˙ˆ ˆ ˆ (v × h) = × h = − 2 r × h = µθθ = µ , (8) dt dt r dt which may be integrated to give the Laplace integral µe = v × h − µˆ, r (9)

where e is a constant vector. The factor µ is needed to get a natural geometric interpretation for e, namely that

We study now the eﬀects of a perturbing force f when the test body is initially moving on a conic described by Eq. (11). The method of variation of the arbitrary constants assumes that the motion happens always on an orbit of the same type, but whose constants h, e slowly vary in time in a form depending from the nature of the perturbing force. The problem is thus shifted from the solution of the unperturbed equation of motion to the solution of the diﬀerential equations related to these unknown functions. The values they assume at each instant t identify the osculating orbit, that is the orbit the planet would follow if the perturbing force in this same instant was put equal to zero. From the point of view of the dif˙ ferential equation of motion, the values of r(t) and r(t)

com M. the real and the elliptical. H. A.2 at a particular instant t can be seen as the initial values of the unperturbed conic the body would follow. Perturbation Methods. 75. We have. 1992. Only the second derivative will reveal the presence of the disturbing force. New York. Introducing Einstein’s Relativity.() is that δ 2 δ =2 = 0. M.elmo@mail. J. We will suppose f (r) to be of the form f (r) = − k r5 (22) III. that is of the type f = f (r)ˆ. Am. (9) δe 1 = dt µ 1 = µ δv δh ×h+v × dt dt δh f ×h+v × . THE VARIABLE PHASE If the the perturbing force is central. 1981. J. Interscience. We can act by searching the frequency or the phase variations. expressing bound periodical motions. d’Inverno. by Eq. (19) dt dt δ 2 δ δa δe = [µa(1 − e2 )] = µ(1 − e2 ) − 2µae = 0. Nayfeh. dt dt dt dt (20) and. 1973. (11) δh δ δv = (r × v) = r × =r ×f dt dt dt After we have. The study of the phase is more simple. a and e are two independent constants in the unperturbed motion so. Equation (??) indicates two possible alternative on the method one can follow to achieve this result. 3 4 A. by Eq. dt fh δe = (ˆ × h) = . we have also δr = 0. we must ﬁnd more and more approximate solutions to the Eq. dt δˆ r = 0. dt (16) where h is a constant. Perturbation Methods in Applied Mathematics Springer-Verlag. because it leads directly to the perihelion formula without the need of any ﬁnal transformation. we have r δh ˆ = r × f = f (r × r ) = 0. 352 (2007). We introduce so a derivative operator δ/dt with the property that δr =0 dt δv =f. New York. (??). D. Phys. for continuity reasons. ∗ 1 2 Electronic address: s. Oxford Univerity Press. and so ˙ r and r are the same at any time for the two paths.Kevorkian. Cole. ”The ﬁrst-order orbital equation”. r ˆ dt µ (17) (18) To ﬁnd higher order corrections to the relativistic precession formula. D’Eliseo. Oxford. Now. consequently. dt (14) and by separating the variables 2µe δe µ δa = =h a dt 1 − e2 dt (21) A consequence of Eq. . we can put h = 0. J. dt (15) Let ﬁrst submit h to the action of this operator.

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