TOPICS

# Kepler's Equation

Kepler's equation gives the relation between the polar coordinates of a celestial body (such as a planet) and the time elapsed from a given initial point. Kepler's equation is of fundamental importance in celestial mechanics, but cannot be directly inverted in terms of simple functions in order to determine where the planet will be at a given time.

Let be the mean anomaly (a parameterization of time) and the eccentric anomaly (a parameterization of polar angle) of a body orbiting on an ellipse with eccentricity , then

 (1)

For not a multiple of , Kepler's equation has a unique solution, but is a transcendental equation and so cannot be inverted and solved directly for given an arbitrary . However, many algorithms have been derived for solving the equation as a result of its importance in celestial mechanics.

Writing a as a power series in gives

 (2)

where the coefficients are given by the Lagrange inversion theorem as

 (3)

(Wintner 1941, Moulton 1970, Henrici 1974, Finch 2003). Surprisingly, this series diverges for

 (4)

(OEIS A033259), a value known as the Laplace limit. In fact, converges as a geometric series with ratio

 (5)

(Finch 2003).

There is also a series solution in Bessel functions of the first kind,

 (6)

This series converges for all like a geometric series with ratio

 (7)

The equation can also be solved by letting be the angle between the planet's motion and the direction perpendicular to the radius vector. Then

 (8)

Alternatively, we can define in terms of an intermediate variable

 (9)

then

 (10)
 (11)

Iterative methods such as the simple

 (12)

with work well, as does Newton's method,

 (13)

The point at which Laplace's formula for solving Kepler's equation begins diverging is known as the Laplace limit.

Eccentric Anomaly, Kapteyn Series, Laplace Limit

## Explore with Wolfram|Alpha

More things to try:

## References

Belur, S. V. "Solution of Kepler's Equation by Newton-Raphson Method." http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/2902/kepler.htm.Colwell, P. Solving Kepler's Equation over Three Centuries. Richmond, VA: Willmann-Bell, 1993.Danby, J. M. Fundamentals of Celestial Mechanics, 2nd ed., rev. ed. Richmond, VA: Willmann-Bell, 1988.Dörrie, H. "The Kepler Equation." §81 in 100 Great Problems of Elementary Mathematics: Their History and Solutions. New York: Dover, pp. 330-334, 1965.Finch, S. R. "Laplace Limit Constant." §4.8 in Mathematical Constants. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, pp. 266-268, 2003.Goldstein, H. Classical Mechanics, 2nd ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, pp. 101-102 and 123-124, 1980.Goursat, E. A Course in Mathematical Analysis, Vol. 2: Functions of a Complex Variable & Differential Equations. New York: Dover, p. 120, 1959.Henrici, P. Applied and Computational Complex Analysis, Vol. 1: Power Series-Integration-Conformal Mapping-Location of Zeros. New York: Wiley, 1974.Ioakimids, N. I. and Papadakis, K. E. "A New Simple Method for the Analytical Solution of Kepler's Equation." Celest. Mech. 35, 305-316, 1985.Ioakimids, N. I. and Papadakis, K. E. "A New Class of Quite Elementary Closed-Form Integrals Formulae for Roots of Nonlinear Systems." Appl. Math. Comput. 29, 185-196, 1989.Le Lionnais, F. Les nombres remarquables. Paris: Hermann, p. 36, 1983.Marion, J. B. and Thornton, S. T. "Kepler's Equations." §7.8 in Classical Dynamics of Particles & Systems, 3rd ed. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 261-266, 1988.Moulton, F. R. An Introduction to Celestial Mechanics, 2nd rev. ed. New York: Dover, pp. 159-169, 1970.Montenbruck, O. and Pfleger, T. "Mathematical Treatment of Kepler's Equation." §4.3 in Astronomy on the Personal Computer, 4th ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 62-63 and 65-68, 2000.Plummer, H. An Introductory Treatise of Dynamical Astronomy. New York: Dover, 1960.Siewert, C. E. and Burniston, E. E. "An Exact Analytical Solution of Kepler's Equation." Celest. Mech. 6, 294-304, 1972.Sloane, N. J. A. Sequences A033259 and A085984 in "The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences."Watson, G. N. A Treatise on the Theory of Bessel Functions, 2nd ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1966.Wintner, A. The Analytic Foundations of Celestial Mechanics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1941.

## Referenced on Wolfram|Alpha

Kepler's Equation

## Cite this as:

Weisstein, Eric W. "Kepler's Equation." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource. https://mathworld.wolfram.com/KeplersEquation.html