THREE_BODY_SIMULATION
Planar Three Body Problem Simulation


THREE_BODY_SIMULATION is a MATLAB library which simulates the solution of the planar three body problem.

Three bodies, regarded as point masses, are constrained to lie in a plane. The masses of each body are given, as are the positions and velocities at a starting time T = 0. The bodies move in accordance with the gravitational force between them.

The force exerted on the 0-th body by the 1st body can be written:

        F = - m0 m1 ( p0 - p1 ) / |p0 - p1|^3
      
assuming that units have been normalized to that the gravitational coefficient is 1. Newton's laws of motion can be written:
  
        m0 p0'' = - m0 m1 ( p0 - p1 ) / |p0 - p1|^3 
                  - m0 m2 ( p0 - p2 ) / |p0 - p2|^3
  
        m1 p1'' = - m1 m0 ( p1 - p0 ) / |p1 - p0|^3 
                  - m1 m2 ( p1 - p2 ) / |p1 - p2|^3
  
        m2 p2'' = - m2 m0 ( p2 - p0 ) / |p2 - p0|^3 
                  - m2 m1 ( p2 - p1 ) / |p2 - p1|^3
      

Letting

        y1 = p0(x)
        y2 = p0(y)
        y3 = p0'(x)
        y4 = p0'(y)
      
and using similar definitions for p1 and p2, the 3 second order vector equations can be rewritten as 12 first order equations. In particular, the first four are:
        y1' = y3
        y2' = y4
        y3' = - m1 ( y1 - y5  ) / |(y1,y2) - (y5,y6) |^3 
              - m2 ( y1 - y9  ) / |(y1,y2) - (y9,y10)|^3
        y4' = - m1 ( y2 - y6  ) / |(y1,y2) - (y5,y6) |^3 
              - m2 ( y2 - y10 ) / |(y1,y2) - (y9,y10)|^3
      
and so on. This first order system can be integrated by a standard ODE solver.

Note that when any two bodies come close together, the solution changes very rapidly, and very small steps must be taken by the ODE solver. For this system, the first near collision occurs around T=15.8299, and the results produced by MATLAB's ode113 will not be very accurate after that point.

Licensing:

The computer code and data files described and made available on this web page are distributed under the GNU LGPL license.

Languages:

THREE_BODY_SIMULATION is available in a C version and a C++ version and a FORTRAN77 version and a FORTRAN90 version and a MATLAB version.

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Author:

Dominik Gruntz, Joerg Waldvogel

Reference:

  1. Dominik Gruntz, Joerg Waldvogel,
    "Orbits in the Planar Three-Body Problem",
    Walter Gander, Jiri Hrebicek,
    Solving Problems in Scientific Computing using Maple and Matlab,
    Springer, 1997,
    ISBN: 3-540-61793-0,
    LC: Q183.9.G36.

Source Code:

SIMPLE simulates the problem by immediately calling an ODE integrator. This approach loses accuracy when the bodies come close to colliding, which is likely to happen often.

THREEBP eliminates some variables by working in the center of mass coordinate system, and uses an approach suggested by Levi-Civita in which a new time scale is devised. The transformed system of ODE's can be solved with greater accuracy.

You can go up one level to the MATLAB source codes.


Last modified on 05 November 2012.