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SSD Glossary

Laplace Plane

The Laplace plane (as used in our satellite orbital elements tables) is defined as the plane in which the satellite's nodal precession is contained (on average). An equivalent definition is the plane normal to the satellite's orbital precession pole.

The typical application for the Laplace plane is in describing the orbits of giant-planet satellites which are close enough to the planet to be perturbed primarily by the sun, planet, and the planet's gravitational harmonics. In such cases, the Laplace plane is constrained to be between the planet's orbital plane and its equatorial plane. However, in the case of the "outer" Jovian satellites (such as Pasiphae), the perturbations by Saturn and even the Galilean satellites dominate those due to Jupiter's gravitational harmonics. The result of those "external" perturbations (which are not normally considered in typical descriptions of the Laplace plane) is a Laplace plane which is beyond the confines of Jupiter's equatorial and orbital planes.


NOTE: The list of defined terms to the left is by no means exhaustive with respect to the general subject of solar system dynamics. The terms listed are thought to be those more commonly used on our site and thus appropriate for inclusion on this page.

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