Secular dynamics of the three-body problem: Application to the υ Andromedae planetary system

Tatiana A. Michtchenko, R. Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The discovery of extra-solar planetary systems with multiple planets in highly eccentric orbits (∼ 0.1-0.6), in contrast with our own Solar System, makes classical secular perturbation analysis very limited. In this paper, we use a semi-numerical approach to study the secular behavior of a system composed of a central star and two massive planets in co-planar orbits. We show that the secular dynamics of this system can be described using only two parameters, the ratios of the semi-major axes and the planetary masses. The main dynamical features of the system are presented in geometrical pictures that allows us to investigate a large domain of the phase space of this three-body problem without time-expensive numerical integrations of the equations of motion, and without any restriction on the magnitude of the planetary eccentricities. The topology of the phase space is also investigated in detail by means of spectral map techniques, which allow us to detect the separatrix of a non-linear secular apsidal resonance. Finally, the qualitative study is supplemented by direct numerical integrations. Three different regimes of secular motion with respect to the secular angle Δ̄ω are possible: they are circulation, oscillation (around 0° and 180°), and high eccentricity libration in a non-linear secular resonance. The first two regimes are a continuous extension of the classical linear secular perturbation theory; the last is a new feature, hitherto unknown, in the secular dynamics of the three-body problem. We apply the analysis to the case of the two outer planets in the v Andromedae system, and obtain its periodic and ordinary orbits, the general structure of its secular phase space, and the boundaries of its secular stability; we find that this system is secularly stable over a large domain of eccentricities. Applying this analysis to a wide range of planetary mass and semi-major axis ratios (centered about the v Andromedae parameters), we find that apsidal oscillation dominates the secular phase space of the three-body coplanar system, and that the non-linear secular resonance is also a common feature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-248
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Celestial mechanics
  • Extra-solar planets
  • Planetary dynamics
  • Resonances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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