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mutual disturbances only increase or diminish the excentricities of their orbits by very minute quantities; consequently the magnitude of the sun's mass is the principal cause of the stability of the system. There is not in the physical world a more splendid example of the adaptation of means to the accomplishment of an end than is exhibited in the nice adjustment of these forces, at once the cause of the variety and of the order of Nature.
Perturbations, Periodic and Secular three Partial Forces
Disturbing Action equivalent to
- Tangential Force the cause of the Periodic Inequalities in Longitude, and Secular Inequalities in the Form and Position of the Orbit in its own Plane Radial Force the cause of Variations in the Planet's Distance from the Sun It combines with the Tangential Force to produce the Secular Variations in the Form and Position of the Orbit in its own Plane Perpendicular Force the cause of Periodic Perturbations in Latitude, and Secular Variations in the Position of the Orbit with regard to the Plane of the Ecliptic - Mean Motion and Major Axis Invariable Stability of System - Effects of a Resisting Medium Invariable Plane of the Solar System and of the Universe Great Inequality of Jupiter and Saturn.
THE planets are subject to disturbances of two kinds, both resulting from the constant operation of their reciprocal attraction: one kind, depending upon their positions with regard to each other, begins from zero, increases to a maximum, decreases, and becomes zero again, when the planets return to the same relative positions. In consequence of these, the disturbed planet is sometimes drawn away from the sun, sometimes brought nearer to him: sometimes it is accelerated in its motion, and sometimes retarded. At one time it is drawn above the plane of its orbit, at another time below it, according to the position of the disturbing body. All such changes, being accomplished in short periods, some in a few months, others in years, or in hundreds of years, are denominated periodic inequalities. The inequalities of the other kind, though occasioned likewise by the disturbing energy of the planets, are entirely independent of their relative positions. They depend upon the relative positions of the orbits alone, whose forms and places in space are altered by very minute quantities, in immense periods of time, and are therefore called secular inequalities.
The periodical perturbations are compensated when the bodies return to the same relative positions with regard to one another and to the sun: the secular inequalities are compensated when
the orbits return to the same positions relatively to one another and to the plane of the ecliptic.
Planetary motion, including both these kinds of disturbance, may be represented by a body revolving in an ellipse, and making small and transient deviations, now on one side of its path, and now on the other, whilst the ellipse itself is slowly, but perpetually, changing both in form and position.
The periodic inequalities are merely transient deviations of a planet from its path, the most remarkable of which only lasts about 918 years; but, in consequence of the secular disturbances, the apsides, or extremities of the major axes of all the orbits, have a direct but variable motion in space, excepting those of the orbit of Venus, which are retrograde (N. 61), and the lines of the nodes move with a variable velocity in a contrary direction. Besides these, the inclination and excentricity of every orbit are in a state of perpetual but slow change. These effects result from the disturbing action of all the planets on each. But, as it is only necessary to estimate the disturbing influence of one body at a time, what follows may convey some idea of the manner in which one planet disturbs the elliptical motion of another.
Suppose two planets moving in ellipses round the sun; if one of them attracted the other and the sun with equal intensity, and in parallel directions (N. 62), it would have no effect in disturbing the elliptical motion. The inequality of this attraction is the sole cause of perturbation, and the difference between the disturbing planet's action on the sun and on the disturbed planet constitutes the disturbing force, which consequently varies in intensity and direction with every change in the relative positions of the three bodies. Although both the sun and planet are under the influence of the disturbing force, the motion of the disturbed planet is referred to the centre of the sun as a fixed point, for convenience. The whole force (N. 63) which disturbs a planet is equivalent to three partial forces. One of these acts on the disturbed planet, in the direction of a tangent to its orbit, and is called the tangential force: it occasions secular inequalities in the form and position of the orbit in its own plane, and is the sole cause of the periodical perturbations in the planet's longitude. Another acts upon the same body in the direction of its radius vector, that is, in the line joining the centres of
the sun and planet, and is called the radial force: it produces periodical changes in the distance of the planet from the sun, and affects the form and position of the orbit in its own plane. The third, which may be called the perpendicular force, acts at right angles to the plane of the orbit, occasions the periodic inequalities in the planet's latitude, and affects the position of the orbit with regard to the plane of the ecliptic.
It has been observed, that the radius vector of a planet, moving in a perfectly elliptical orbit, passes over equal spaces or areas in equal times; a circumstance which is independent of the law of the force, and would be the same whether it varied inversely as the square of the distance, or not, provided only that it be directed to the centre of the sun. Hence the tangential force, not being directed to the centre, occasions an unequable description of areas, or, what is the same thing, it disturbs the motion of the planet in longitude. The tangential force sometimes accelerates the planet's motion, sometimes retards it, and occasionally has no effect at all. Were the orbits of both planets circular, a complete compensation would take place at each revolution of the two planets, because the arcs in which the accelerations and retardations take place would be symmetrical on each side of the disturbing force. For it is clear, that if the motion be accelerated through a certain space, and then retarded through as much, the motion at the end of the time will be the same as if no change had taken place. But, as the orbits of the planets are ellipses, this symmetry does not hold: for, as the planet moves unequably in its orbit, it is in some positions more directly, and for a longer time, under the influence of the disturbing force than in others. And, although multitudes of variations do compensate each other in short periods, there are others, depending on peculiar relations among the periodic times of the planets, which do not compensate each other till after one, or even till after many revolutions of both bodies. A periodical inequality of this kind in the motions of Jupiter and Saturn has a period of no less than 918 years.
The radial force, or that part of the disturbing force which acts in the direction of the line joining the centres of the sun and disturbed planet, has no effect on the areas, but is the cause of periodical changes of small extent in the distance of the planet from the sun. It has already been shown, that the force pro
ducing perfectly elliptical motion varies inversely as the square of the distance, and that a force following any other law would cause the body to move in a curve of a very different kind. Now, the radial disturbing force varies directly as the distance; and, as it sometimes combines with and increases the intensity of the sun's attraction for the disturbed body, and at other times opposes and consequently diminishes it, in both cases it causes the sun's attraction to deviate from the exact law of gravity, and the whole action of this compound central force on the disturbed body is either greater or less than what is requisite for perfectly elliptical motion. When greater, the curvature of the disturbed planet's path, on leaving its perihelion (N. 64), or point nearest the sun, is greater than it would be in the ellipse, which brings the planet to its aphelion (N. 65), or point farthest from the sun, before it has passed through 180°, as it would do if undisturbed. So that in this case the apsides, or extremities of the major axis, advance in space. When the central force is less than the law of gravity requires, the curvature of the planet's path is less than the curvature of the ellipse. So that the planet, on leaving its perihelion, would pass through more than 180° before arriving at its aphelion, which causes the apsides to recede in space (N. 66). Cases both of advance and recess occur during a revolution of the two planets; but those in which the apsides advance preponderate. This, however, is not the full amount of the motion of the apsides; part arises also from the tangential force (N. 63), which alternately accelerates and retards the velocity of the disturbed planet. An increase in the planet's tangential velocity diminishes the curvature of its orbit, and is equivalent to a decrease of central force. On the contrary, a decrease of the tangential velocity, which increases the curvature of the orbit, is equivalent to an increase of central force. These fluctuations, owing to the tangential force, occasion an alternate recess and advance of the apsides, after the manner already explained (N. 66). An uncompensated portion of the direct motion, arising from this cause, conspires with that already impressed by the radial force, and in some cases even nearly doubles the direct motion of these points. The motion of the apsides may be represented by supposing a planet to move in an ellipse, while the ellipse itself is slowly revolving about the sun in the same plane (N. 67). This motion of the major axis,