Wikipedia:Today's featured article/December 30, 2010

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Laplace–Runge–Lenz vector is a vector used chiefly to describe the shape and orientation of the orbit of one astronomical body around another, such as a planet revolving around a star. For two bodies interacting by Newtonian gravity, the LRL vector is a constant of motion, meaning that it is the same no matter where it is calculated on the orbit; equivalently, the LRL vector is said to be conserved. More generally, the LRL vector is conserved in all problems in which two bodies interact by a central force that varies as the inverse square of the distance between them; such problems are called Kepler problems. The hydrogen atom is a Kepler problem, since it comprises two charged particles interacting by Coulomb's law of electrostatics, another inverse square central force. The LRL vector was essential in the first quantum mechanical derivation of the spectrum of the hydrogen atom, before the development of the Schrödinger equation. The Laplace–Runge–Lenz vector is named after Pierre-Simon de Laplace, Carle Runge and Wilhelm Lenz. The LRL vector has been re-discovered several times and is also equivalent to the dimensionless eccentricity vector of celestial mechanics. Various generalizations of the LRL vector have been defined, which incorporate the effects of special relativity, electromagnetic fields and even different types of central forces. (more...)

Recently featured: Laurence of CanterburyLinceLincoln cent