The phase portrait of the pendulum equation x'' + sin x = 0. The highlighted curve shows the heteroclinic orbit from (x, x') = (−π, 0) to (x, x') = (π, 0). This orbit corresponds with the (rigid) pendulum starting upright, making one revolution through its lowest position, and ending upright again.
A periodic point of the system is simply a recurring sequence of letters. A heteroclinic orbit is then the joining of two distinct periodic orbits. It may be written as
where is a sequence of symbols of length k, (of course, ), and is another sequence of symbols, of length m (likewise, ). The notation simply denotes the repetition of p an infinite number of times. Thus, a heteroclinic orbit can be understood as the transition from one periodic orbit to another. By contrast, a homoclinic orbit can be written as
with the intermediate sequence being non-empty, and, of course, not being p, as otherwise, the orbit would simply be .