The dynamics of comet shoemaker-levy 9: Initial capture phase

Travis Swenson, Robyn Woollands, Martin Lo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) with Jupiter in 1994 was the ultimate confirmation of Eugene Shoemaker's theory that impacts are a common, fundamental process in the Solar System. On Earth, asteroid impacts have produced several near extinction level events. We tend to visualize these collisions as billiard balls hitting one another. But how, exactly, do they occur? The actual dynamics is much more complex and subtle because it is highly nonlinear and involves chaos in the Three-Body Problem. In this paper we investigate the effects of Lyapunov orbits, halo orbits, and their associated invariant manifolds, on the orbital motion of SL9. We demonstrate that periodic orbits act as gateways to Jupiter, and their invariant manifolds control the dynamics of SL9 during the Initial Capture Phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpaceflight Mechanics 2017
EditorsJon A. Sims, Frederick A. Leve, Jay W. McMahon, Yanping Guo
PublisherUnivelt Inc.
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780877036371
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event27th AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, 2017 - San Antonio, United States
Duration: Feb 5 2017Feb 9 2017

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
ISSN (Print)0065-3438


Other27th AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, 2017
CountryUnited States
CitySan Antonio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science

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