Minimal Geodesics of the Isosceles Three Body Problem

Richard Moeckel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The isosceles three-body problem with nonnegative energy is studied from a variational point of view based on the Jacobi–Maupertuis metric. The solutions are represented by geodesics in the two-dimensional configuration space. Since the metric is singular at collisions, an approach based on the theory of length spaces is used. This provides an alternative to the more familiar approach based on the principle of least action. The emphasis is on the existence and properties of minimal geodesics, that is, shortest curves connecting two points in configuration space. For any two points, even singular points, a minimal geodesic exists and is nonsingular away from the endpoints. For the zero energy case, it is possible to use knowledge of the behavior of the flow on the collision manifold to see that certain solutions must be minimal geodesics. In particular, the geodesic corresponding to the collinear homothetic solution turns out to be a minimal for certain mass ratios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number48
JournalQualitative Theory of Dynamical Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Celestial mechanics
  • Minimal geodesics
  • Three-body problem

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