three-body problem

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The mathematical problem of finding the positions and velocities of three massive bodies that attract each other gravitationally for any time in the past or future, given their positions, masses, and velocities at a starting time. No general mathematical solution has been found, but certain general results are known, namely that the system's centre of mass travels with constant velocity; the total energy of the system is constant; and the total angular momentum of the system also does not alter. See alson-body problem; restricted three-body problem.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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