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Kepler's laws

(Kepler's laws of planetary motion)
(laws of the kinematics of orbits)

Kepler's laws (i.e., Kepler's laws of planetary motion) are three laws that cover the basic kinematics (description of rules governing the motions) of the solar system's planets, and are useful for many cases of orbiting bodies. Johannes Kepler worked them out in the 16th century, in his effort to find a mathematical basis for the known astronomy.

  1. The orbits are elliptical.
  2. The Sun is at one of the foci of the ellipse.
  3. The orbital speed is such that a line between planet and Sun sweeps out the same area over any equal time-intervals.

As quoted here, the laws would apply (as a special case) to a circular orbit with constant orbital speed.

The laws are generally useful for bodies orbiting around others, yielding very good approximations given some assumptions, among them that the primary body is by far the most massive, that the bodies are basically spherical, that gravitational interactions between bodies orbiting the central body are minimal, and that relativistic speeds are not involved. Orbits that do not match these laws yield information when analyzed to uncover which assumptions don't hold and to what degree. Some modifications to the laws to take into account some of these factors are also currently used.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
celestial mechanics
Keplerian disk
Kepler radius
mean anomaly