Lecture 4 - Orbital Mechanics (1/21/99)

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Chapter 1, 12-1 (ZG4)


pages 12 - 16

HST Coronograph image of binary star Wolf 424, with separation of 0.4".
The companion may be a brown dwarf. (Courtesy STSCI)

? Key Question: What can we learn from binary stars?
! Key Principle: Newton's Laws of Gravitation
# Key Problem: What determines the relative orbit of a 2-body system?


  1. Weighing the Stars
  2. Orbital Mechanics Revisited

Review of Mechanics:

For a review of orbital mechanics, especially Kepler's Laws and Newton's Laws, see Chapter 1 in ZGS (especially 1-2 through 1-4). Also, look at the Astro 11 lectures

Note that we will be using mechanics all through the semester so it is worth spending time now to really get into it. In particular, we will be studying the motions of stars in our galaxy, galaxies in clusters of galaxies, and the dynamics of the Universe as a whole which will build on these fundamental ideas!

For those of you who did not take Astro 11, you can review these subjects in the above-mentioned chapters of the textbook, or look at my lecture notes placed on reserve in the Math-Physics library on the 3rd floor of DRL.

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smyers@nrao.edu Steven T. Myers