Three-body problem

In physics and classical mechanics, the three-body problem is the problem of taking the initial positions and velocities (or momenta) of three point masses and solving for their subsequent motion according to Newton's laws of motion and Newton's law of universal gravitation.[1] The three-body problem is a special case of the n-body problem. Unlike two-body problems, no general closed-form solution exists,[1] as the resulting dynamical system is chaotic for most initial conditions, and numerical methods are generally required.

Approximate trajectories of three identical bodies located at the vertices of a scalene triangle and having zero initial velocities. It is seen that the center of mass, in accordance with the law of conservation of momentum, remains in place.

Historically, the first specific three-body problem to receive extended study was the one involving the Moon, Earth, and the Sun.[2] In an extended modern sense, a three-body problem is any problem in classical mechanics or quantum mechanics that models the motion of three particles.

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