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Chaos in the vicinity of a singularity in the three-body problem: The equilateral triangle experiment in the zero angular momentum limit

Hugo D. Parischewsky, Alessandro A. Trani, Nathan W. C. Leigh

SciPost Phys. Core 6, 016 (2023) · published 21 March 2023


We present numerical simulations of the gravitational three-body problem, in which three particles lie at rest close to the vertices of an equilateral triangle. In the unperturbed problem, the three particles fall towards the center of mass of the system to form a three-body collision, or singularity, where the particles overlap in space and time. By perturbing the initial positions of the particles, we are able to study chaos in the vicinity of the singularity. Here we cover both the singular region close to the unperturbed configuration and the binary-single scattering regime where one side of the triangle is very short compared to the other two. We make phase space plots to study the regular and ergodic subsets of our simulations and compare them with the outcomes expected from the statistical escape theory of the three-body problem. We further provide fits to the ergodic subset to characterize the properties of the left-over binaries. We identify the discrepancy between the statistical theory and the simulations in the regular subset of interactions, which only exhibits weak chaos. As we decrease the scale of the perturbations in the initial positions, the phase space becomes entirely dominated by regular interactions, according to our metric for chaos. Finally, we show the effect of general relativity corrections by simulating the same scenario with the inclusion of post-Newtonian corrections to the equations of motion.

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