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Mathematicians Find 12,000 Solutions for Three-Body Problem

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An illustration of the three-body problem in motion.

Using a supercomputer to run an optimized version of the algorithm used in the 2017 work, the team discovered 12,392 new solutions.

Credit: Chris Buzelli

Mathematicians in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Japan have identified 12,392 new stable orbital arrangements for three objects as allowed by Isaac Newton's laws of motion, also known as the three-body problem.

The researchers ran an optimized version of an algorithm used to find 1,223 solutions in 2017 to the three-body problem on a supercomputer.

The solutions start with all three bodies stationary before free-falling as they gravitate toward each other, carried past each other by momentum before decelerating, stopping, and drawing together again. The researchers found this pattern would recur endlessly in the absence of friction.

Ivan Hristov at Bulgaria's Sofia University said, "Their physical and astronomical relevance will be better known after the study of stability—it's very important. But, nevertheless—stable or unstable—they are of great theoretical interest."

From New Scientist
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