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Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 473–491 | Cite as

Algorithm for IAU north poles and rotation parameters

Which way is up?
  • J. H. Lieske
Article
  • 54 Downloads

Abstract

In 1970 the IAU defined any object'snorth pole to be that axis of rotation which lies north of the solar system's invariable plane. A competing definition in widespread use at some institutions followed the ‘right hand rule’ whereby the ‘north’ axis of rotation was generally said to be that that of the rotational angular momentum. In the case of the latter definition, the planet Neptune and its satellite Triton would have their ‘north’ poles in opposite hemispheres because Triton's angular momentum vector is in the hemisphere opposite from that of Neptune's rotation angular momentum.

The IAU resolutions have been somewhat controversial in some quarters ever since their adoption. A Working Group has periodically updated the recommended values of planet and satellite poles and rotation rates in accordance with the IAU definition of north and the IAU definition of prime meridian. Neither system is completely satisfactory in the perception of all scientists, and some confusion has been generated by publishing data in the two different systems.

In this paper we review the IAU definitions ofnorth and of the location ofprime meridian and we present the algorithm which has been employed in determining the rotational parameters of the natural satellites. The IAU definition of the prime meridian contains some ambiguities which in practice have been ‘specified’ by the numerical values published by the IAU working group but which have not yet been explicitly documented. The purpose of this paper is to explicitly document the algorithm employed by the IAU working group in specifying satellite poles and rotation rates.

Key words

Poles IAU north rotation rates prime meridian 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. H. Lieske
    • 1
  1. 1.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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