# Sphere of influence (astrodynamics)

Last updated

A sphere of influence (SOI) in astrodynamics and astronomy is the oblate-spheroid-shaped region around a celestial body where the primary gravitational influence on an orbiting object is that body. This is usually used to describe the areas in the Solar System where planets dominate the orbits of surrounding objects such as moons, despite the presence of the much more massive but distant Sun. In the patched conic approximation, used in estimating the trajectories of bodies moving between the neighbourhoods of different masses using a two body approximation, ellipses and hyperbolae, the SOI is taken as the boundary where the trajectory switches which mass field it is influenced by.

## Contents

The general equation describing the radius of the sphere ${\displaystyle r_{\text{SOI}}}$ of a planet: [1]

${\displaystyle r_{\text{SOI}}\approx a\left({\frac {m}{M}}\right)^{2/5}}$

where

• ${\displaystyle a}$ is the semimajor axis of the smaller object's (usually a planet's) orbit around the larger body (usually the Sun).
• ${\displaystyle m}$ and ${\displaystyle M}$ are the masses of the smaller and the larger object (usually a planet and the Sun), respectively.

In the patched conic approximation, once an object leaves the planet's SOI, the primary/only gravitational influence is the Sun (until the object enters another body's SOI). Because the definition of rSOI relies on the presence of the Sun and a planet, the term is only applicable in a three-body or greater system and requires the mass of the primary body to be much greater than the mass of the secondary body. This changes the three-body problem into a restricted two-body problem.

## Table of selected SOI radii

The table shows the values of the sphere of gravity of the bodies of the solar system in relation to the Sun (with the exception of the Moon which is reported relative to Earth): [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

BodySOIBody DiameterBody Mass (1024 kg)Distance from Sun
Mercury 0.11772,700464,8783,0310.330.393657.9
Venus 0.616382,76510212,1047,5214.8670.72367.2108.2
Earth + Moon 0.929577,25414512,742 (Earth)7,918 (Earth)5.972
(Earth)
193149.6
Moon 0.064339,993373,4762,1600.07346See Earth + Moon
Mars 0.578359,1531706,7804,2120.651.524141.6227.9
Jupiter 48.229,950,092687139,82286,88119005.203483.6778.3
Saturn 54.538,864,7301025116,46472,3675709.539886.71,427.0
Uranus 51.932,249,165204050,72431,5188719.181,784.02,871.0
Neptune 86.253,562,197352549,24830,60110030.062,794.44,497.1

An important understanding to be drawn from the above table is that "Sphere of Influence" here is "Primary". For example, though Jupiter is much larger in mass than say, Neptune, its Primary SOI is much smaller due to Jupiter's much closer proximity to the Sun.

## Increased accuracy on the SOI

The Sphere of influence is, in fact, not quite a sphere. The distance to the SOI depends on the angular distance ${\displaystyle \theta }$ from the massive body. A more accurate formula is given by [1]

${\displaystyle r_{\text{SOI}}(\theta )\approx a\left({\frac {m}{M}}\right)^{2/5}{\frac {1}{\sqrt[{10}]{1+3\cos ^{2}(\theta )}}}}$

Averaging over all possible directions we get:

${\displaystyle {\overline {r_{\text{SOI}}}}=0.9431a\left({\frac {m}{M}}\right)^{2/5}}$

## Derivation

Consider two point masses ${\displaystyle A}$ and ${\displaystyle B}$ at locations ${\displaystyle r_{A}}$ and ${\displaystyle r_{B}}$, with mass ${\displaystyle m_{A}}$ and ${\displaystyle m_{B}}$ respectively. The distance ${\displaystyle R=|r_{B}-r_{A}|}$ separates the two objects. Given a massless third point ${\displaystyle C}$ at location ${\displaystyle r_{C}}$, one can ask whether to use a frame centered on ${\displaystyle A}$ or on ${\displaystyle B}$ to analyse the dynamics of ${\displaystyle C}$.

Consider a frame centered on ${\displaystyle A}$. The gravity of ${\displaystyle B}$ is denoted as ${\displaystyle g_{B}}$ and will be treated as a perturbation to the dynamics of ${\displaystyle C}$ due to the gravity ${\displaystyle g_{A}}$ of body ${\displaystyle A}$. Due to their gravitational interactions, point ${\displaystyle A}$ is attracted to point ${\displaystyle B}$ with acceleration ${\displaystyle a_{A}={\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{3}}}(r_{B}-r_{A})}$, this frame is therefore non-inertial. To quantify the effects of the perturbations in this frame, one should consider the ratio of the perturbations to the main body gravity i.e. ${\displaystyle \chi _{A}={\frac {|g_{B}-a_{A}|}{|g_{A}|}}}$. The perturbation ${\displaystyle g_{B}-a_{A}}$ is also known as the tidal forces due to body ${\displaystyle B}$. It is possible to construct the perturbation ratio ${\displaystyle \chi _{B}}$ for the frame centered on ${\displaystyle B}$ by interchanging ${\displaystyle A\leftrightarrow B}$.

Frame AFrame B
Main acceleration${\displaystyle g_{A}}$${\displaystyle g_{B}}$
Frame acceleration${\displaystyle a_{A}}$${\displaystyle a_{B}}$
Secondary acceleration${\displaystyle g_{B}}$${\displaystyle g_{A}}$
Perturbation, tidal forces${\displaystyle g_{B}-a_{A}}$${\displaystyle g_{A}-a_{B}}$
Perturbation ratio ${\displaystyle \chi }$${\displaystyle \chi _{A}={\frac {|g_{B}-a_{A}|}{|g_{A}|}}}$${\displaystyle \chi _{B}={\frac {|g_{A}-a_{B}|}{|g_{B}|}}}$

As ${\displaystyle C}$ gets close to ${\displaystyle A}$, ${\displaystyle \chi _{A}\rightarrow 0}$ and ${\displaystyle \chi _{B}\rightarrow \infty }$, and vice versa. The frame to choose is the one that has the smallest perturbation ratio. The surface for which ${\displaystyle \chi _{A}=\chi _{B}}$ separates the two regions of influence. In general this region is rather complicated but in the case that one mass dominates the other, say ${\displaystyle m_{A}\ll m_{B}}$, it is possible to approximate the separating surface. In such a case this surface must be close to the mass ${\displaystyle A}$, denote ${\displaystyle r}$ as the distance from ${\displaystyle A}$ to the separating surface.

Frame AFrame B
Main acceleration${\displaystyle g_{A}={\frac {Gm_{A}}{r^{2}}}}$${\displaystyle g_{B}\approx {\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{2}}}+{\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{3}}}r\approx {\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{2}}}}$
Frame acceleration${\displaystyle a_{A}={\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{2}}}}$${\displaystyle a_{B}={\frac {Gm_{A}}{R^{2}}}\approx 0}$
Secondary acceleration${\displaystyle g_{B}\approx {\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{2}}}+{\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{3}}}r}$${\displaystyle g_{A}={\frac {Gm_{A}}{r^{2}}}}$
Perturbation, tidal forces${\displaystyle g_{B}-a_{A}\approx {\frac {Gm_{B}}{R^{3}}}r}$${\displaystyle g_{A}-a_{B}\approx {\frac {Gm_{A}}{r^{2}}}}$
Perturbation ratio ${\displaystyle \chi }$${\displaystyle \chi _{A}\approx {\frac {m_{B}}{m_{A}}}{\frac {r^{3}}{R^{3}}}}$${\displaystyle \chi _{B}\approx {\frac {m_{A}}{m_{B}}}{\frac {R^{2}}{r^{2}}}}$

The distance to the sphere of influence must thus satisfy ${\displaystyle {\frac {m_{B}}{m_{A}}}{\frac {r^{3}}{R^{3}}}={\frac {m_{A}}{m_{B}}}{\frac {R^{2}}{r^{2}}}}$ and so ${\displaystyle r=R\left({\frac {m_{A}}{m_{B}}}\right)^{2/5}}$ is the radius of the sphere of influence of body ${\displaystyle A}$

## Related Research Articles

In astronomy, Kepler's laws of planetary motion, published by Johannes Kepler between 1609 and 1619, describe the orbits of planets around the Sun. The laws modified the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus, replacing its circular orbits and epicycles with elliptical trajectories, and explaining how planetary velocities vary. The three laws state that:

1. The orbit of a planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci.
2. A line segment joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
3. The square of a planet's orbital period is proportional to the cube of the length of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

In celestial mechanics, the Lagrange points are points of equilibrium for small-mass objects under the influence of two massive orbiting bodies. Mathematically, this involves the solution of the restricted three-body problem.

In celestial mechanics, an orbit is the curved trajectory of an object such as the trajectory of a planet around a star, or of a natural satellite around a planet, or of an artificial satellite around an object or position in space such as a planet, moon, asteroid, or Lagrange point. Normally, orbit refers to a regularly repeating trajectory, although it may also refer to a non-repeating trajectory. To a close approximation, planets and satellites follow elliptic orbits, with the center of mass being orbited at a focal point of the ellipse, as described by Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

The tidal force is a gravitational effect that stretches a body along the line towards the center of mass of another body due to a gradient in gravitational field from the other body; it is responsible for diverse phenomena, including tides, tidal locking, breaking apart of celestial bodies and formation of ring systems within the Roche limit, and in extreme cases, spaghettification of objects. It arises because the gravitational field exerted on one body by another is not constant across its parts: the nearest side is attracted more strongly than the farthest side. It is this difference that causes a body to get stretched. Thus, the tidal force is also known as the differential force, as well as a secondary effect of the gravitational field.

In celestial mechanics, escape velocity or escape speed is the minimum speed needed for a free, non-propelled object to escape from the gravitational influence of a primary body, thus reaching an infinite distance from it. It is typically stated as an ideal speed, ignoring atmospheric friction. Although the term "escape velocity" is common, it is more accurately described as a speed than a velocity because it is independent of direction. The escape speed is independent of the mass of the escaping object, but increases with the mass of the primary body; it decreases with the distance from the primary body, thus taking into account how far the object has already traveled. Its calculation at a given distance means that no acceleration is further needed for the object to escape: it will slow down as it travels—due to the massive body's gravity—but it will never quite slow to a stop. On the other hand, an object already at escape speed needs slowing for it to be captured by the gravitational influence of the body.

In fluid mechanics, hydrostatic equilibrium is the condition of a fluid or plastic solid at rest, which occurs when external forces, such as gravity, are balanced by a pressure-gradient force. In the planetary physics of Earth, the pressure-gradient force prevents gravity from collapsing the planetary atmosphere into a thin, dense shell, whereas gravity prevents the pressure-gradient force from diffusing the atmosphere into outer space.

The orbital period is the amount of time a given astronomical object takes to complete one orbit around another object. In astronomy, it usually applies to planets or asteroids orbiting the Sun, moons orbiting planets, exoplanets orbiting other stars, or binary stars. It may also refer to the time it takes a satellite orbiting a planet or moon to complete one orbit.

Orbital mechanics or astrodynamics is the application of ballistics and celestial mechanics to the practical problems concerning the motion of rockets and other spacecraft. The motion of these objects is usually calculated from Newton's laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. Orbital mechanics is a core discipline within space-mission design and control.

A trajectory or flight path is the path that an object with mass in motion follows through space as a function of time. In classical mechanics, a trajectory is defined by Hamiltonian mechanics via canonical coordinates; hence, a complete trajectory is defined by position and momentum, simultaneously.

The Hill sphere of an astronomical body is the region in which it dominates the attraction of satellites. To be retained by a planet, a moon must have an orbit that lies within the planet's Hill sphere. That moon would, in turn, have a Hill sphere of its own. Any object within that distance would tend to become a satellite of the moon, rather than of the planet itself. One simple view of the extent of the Solar System is the Hill sphere of the Sun with respect to local stars and the galactic nucleus.

In astrodynamics or celestial mechanics, a hyperbolic trajectory or hyperbolic orbit is the trajectory of any object around a central body with more than enough speed to escape the central object's gravitational pull. The name derives from the fact that according to Newtonian theory such an orbit has the shape of a hyperbola. In more technical terms this can be expressed by the condition that the orbital eccentricity is greater than one.

The Kerr–Newman metric is the most general asymptotically flat, stationary solution of the Einstein–Maxwell equations in general relativity that describes the spacetime geometry in the region surrounding an electrically charged, rotating mass. It generalizes the Kerr metric by taking into account the field energy of an electromagnetic field, in addition to describing rotation. It is one of a large number of various different electrovacuum solutions, that is, of solutions to the Einstein–Maxwell equations which account for the field energy of an electromagnetic field. Such solutions do not include any electric charges other than that associated with the gravitational field, and are thus termed vacuum solutions.

Spacecraft flight dynamics is the application of mechanical dynamics to model how the external forces acting on a space vehicle or spacecraft determine its flight path. These forces are primarily of three types: propulsive force provided by the vehicle's engines; gravitational force exerted by the Earth and other celestial bodies; and aerodynamic lift and drag.

The surface gravity, g, of an astronomical object is the gravitational acceleration experienced at its surface at the equator, including the effects of rotation. The surface gravity may be thought of as the acceleration due to gravity experienced by a hypothetical test particle which is very close to the object's surface and which, in order not to disturb the system, has negligible mass. For objects where the surface is deep in the atmosphere and the radius not known, the surface gravity is given at the 1 bar pressure level in the atmosphere.

A gravity train is a theoretical means of transportation for purposes of commuting between two points on the surface of a sphere, by following a straight tunnel connecting the two points through the interior of the sphere.

For most numbered asteroids, almost nothing is known apart from a few physical parameters and orbital elements. Some physical characteristics can only be estimated. The physical data is determined by making certain standard assumptions.

The two-body problem in general relativity is the determination of the motion and gravitational field of two bodies as described by the field equations of general relativity. Solving the Kepler problem is essential to calculate the bending of light by gravity and the motion of a planet orbiting its sun. Solutions are also used to describe the motion of binary stars around each other, and estimate their gradual loss of energy through gravitational radiation.

In celestial mechanics, a Kepler orbit is the motion of one body relative to another, as an ellipse, parabola, or hyperbola, which forms a two-dimensional orbital plane in three-dimensional space. A Kepler orbit can also form a straight line. It considers only the point-like gravitational attraction of two bodies, neglecting perturbations due to gravitational interactions with other objects, atmospheric drag, solar radiation pressure, a non-spherical central body, and so on. It is thus said to be a solution of a special case of the two-body problem, known as the Kepler problem. As a theory in classical mechanics, it also does not take into account the effects of general relativity. Keplerian orbits can be parametrized into six orbital elements in various ways.

Orbit modeling is the process of creating mathematical models to simulate motion of a massive body as it moves in orbit around another massive body due to gravity. Other forces such as gravitational attraction from tertiary bodies, air resistance, solar pressure, or thrust from a propulsion system are typically modeled as secondary effects. Directly modeling an orbit can push the limits of machine precision due to the need to model small perturbations to very large orbits. Because of this, perturbation methods are often used to model the orbit in order to achieve better accuracy.

The innermost stable circular orbit is the smallest marginally stable circular orbit in which a test particle can stably orbit a massive object in general relativity. The location of the ISCO, the ISCO-radius, depends on the mass and angular momentum (spin) of the central object. The ISCO plays an important role in black hole accretion disks since it marks the inner edge of the disk.

## References

1. Seefelder, Wolfgang (2002). Lunar Transfer Orbits Utilizing Solar Perturbations and Ballistic Capture. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag. p. 76. ISBN   3-8316-0155-0 . Retrieved July 3, 2018.

## General references

• Bate, Roger R.; Donald D. Mueller; Jerry E. White (1971). . New York: Dover Publications. pp.  333–334. ISBN   0-486-60061-0.
• Sellers, Jerry J.; Astore, William J.; Giffen, Robert B.; Larson, Wiley J. (2004). Kirkpatrick, Douglas H. (ed.). (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill. pp.  228, 738. ISBN   0-07-294364-5.
• Danby, J. M. A. (2003). Fundamentals of celestial mechanics (2. ed., rev. and enlarged, 5. print. ed.). Richmond, Va., U.S.A.: Willmann-Bell. pp. 352–353. ISBN   0-943396-20-4.