Celestial mechanics is a branch of mathematics and astronomy that deals with the motions of celestial objects. The field applies principles of physics, gravitation, historically classical mechanics, to astronomical objects such as stars and planets to produce ephemeris data. Orbital mechanics (astrodynamics) is a subfield which focuses on the orbits of artificial satellites. Lunar theory is another subfield focusing on the orbit of the Moon.
For our latest developments/activities in this area, please see the listing at the end of this article.
Modern analytic celestial mechanics started over 300 years ago with Isaac Newton's Principia of 1687. The name "celestial mechanics" is more recent than that. Newton wrote that the field should be called "rational mechanics." The term "dynamics" came in a little later with Gottfried Leibniz, and over a century after Newton, Pierre-Simon Laplace introduced the term "celestial mechanics." Prior to Kepler there was little connection between exact, quantitative prediction of planetary positions, using geometrical or arithmetical techniques, and contemporary discussions of the physical causes of the planets' motion.
Solar system dynamics
The gravity force acting over eons has provided the solar system with an intricate dynamical structure, much of it revealed by recent space missions. Mathematical tools and physical models are needed for a complete understanding of the subject.
This is a multi-disciplinary subject that combines expertises from Geophysics, Dynamical Systems, and Numerical Simulations. We study the geophysical effects that modify the spin and the orbits of planets and satellites, in particular tidal effects and core-mantle friction.
See here a movie made by the NASA Science "Understanding orbits and Kepler's laws", for a brief historical review on the dynamics of the solar system.
Latest Celestial Mechanics News & Events
In the framework of the COST action MW-Gaia, related with the Gaia (ESA) mission, for which Gr@v member Alexandre Correia serves as MC member, a 3-days workshop on "Exoplanets in the era of Gaia" is being organised on 18-20 November 2019, at CAUP, Porto, Portugal. More info here.
On May 29th 1919 Eddington and Cottingham measured the position of stars near the sun during a total eclipse observed at the island of Príncipe, off the west African coast. Their results, together with the ones of another expedition undertaken by Crommelin and Davidson to Sobral (Brazil), were announced on November 6th 1919 and confirmed the General Theory of Relativity. This openned a new era in our understanding of gravity, space, time and matter... and made Einstein world famous.