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“Two body” system represents the starting point for studying motion of celestial bodies, including Earth. In general, gravitational force is dominant for a pair of masses in such a manner that influence of all other bodies can be neglected as first approximation. In that case, we are left with an isolated “two body” system. The most important deduction of this simplifying assumption is that isolated system is free of external force. This means that “center of mass” of the isolated system in not accelerated.
In the solar system, one of the massive bodies is Sun and the other is one of the planets. In this case, Sun is relatively much larger than second body. Similarly, in Earth-moon system, Earth is relatively much larger than moon. On the other hand, bodies are of similar mass in a “binary stars” system. There are indeed various possibilities. However, we first need to understand the basics of the motion of isolated two bodies system, which is interacted by internal force of attraction due to gravitation. Specially, how do they hold themselves in space?
In this module, we shall apply laws of mechanics, which are based on Newton’s laws of motion and Newton's law of gravitation. Most characterizing aspect of the motion is that two bodies, in question, move in a single plane, which contains their center of mass. What it means that the motion of two body system is coplanar.
Newtonian mechanics provides a general solution in terms of trajectory of a conic section with different eccentricity. The trajectories like linear, circular, elliptical, parabolic, hyperbolic etc are subsets of this general solution with specific eccentricity. Here, we do not seek mathematical derivation of generalized solution of the motion. Rather, we want to introduce simpler trajectories like that of a straight line, circle etc. first and then interpret elliptical trajectory with simplifying assumptions. In this module, we shall limit ourselves to the motion of “two body” system along a straight line. We shall take up circular motion in the next module.
In a way, the discussion of motion of “two body” system is preparatory before studying Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, which deals with specific case of elliptical trajectory.
This is simplest motion possible for "two body" system. The bodies under consideration are initially at rest. In this case, center of mass of two bodies is a specific point in the given reference. Also, it is to be noted that center of mass lies always between two bodies and not beyond them.
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