EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 506, Number 2, November I 2009
Page(s) 989 - 992
Section Celestial mechanics and astrometry
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811279
Published online 08 September 2009
A&A 506, 989-992 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811279

Research Note

On the predictability of unstable satellite motion around elongated celestial bodies

E. Mysen

Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo, PO Box 1029 Blindern, 0315 Oslo, Norway
    e-mail: eirik.mysen@astro.uio.no

Received 3 November 2008 / Accepted 28 August 2009

Context. Close satellite orbits around small and elongated celestial bodies can experience massive aperiodic changes in shape. According to a number of published works, the changes are continuous functions of the orbit elements of the satellite's unperturbed trajectory.
Aims. Later research, however, has revealed that the onset of instability is discrete, and highly correlated with the overlap of spin-orbit resonances. Since the interaction of resonances also can induce stochasticity in the orbiter's motion, we want to investigate more closely to what extent it is possible to predict the orbit evolution from the unperturbed elements.
Methods. Numerical simulations of a natural or artificial satellite's motion in a rotating gravity field of second order and degree are conducted using different algorithms and software.
Results. Consistent with the identification of resonance overlap as the responsible mechanism for the onset of orbit instability, we find that it is not always possible to predict qualitatively the outcome of a close encounter between satellite and the central body from the unperturbed orbit elements of the orbiter.
Conclusions. The massive aperiodic changes in orbit energy experienced by natural and artificial satellites in orbit around small elongated bodies exhibit properties characteristic for stochasticity.

Key words: space vehicules -- celestial mechanics -- methods: analytical -- comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

© ESO 2009

What is OpenURL?

The OpenURL standard is a protocol for transmission of metadata describing the resource that you wish to access.

An OpenURL link contains article metadata and directs it to the OpenURL server of your choice. The OpenURL server can provide access to the resource and also offer complementary services (specific search engine, export of references...). The OpenURL link can be generated by different means.

  • If your librarian has set up your subscription with an OpenURL resolver, OpenURL links appear automatically on the abstract pages.
  • You can define your own OpenURL resolver with your EDPS Account.
    In this case your choice will be given priority over that of your library.
  • You can use an add-on for your browser (Firefox or I.E.) to display OpenURL links on a page (see http://www.openly.com/openurlref/). You should disable this module if you wish to use the OpenURL server that you or your library have defined.