How can an asteroid get caught at a Lagrange point without a "brake"?

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Talking about the Jupiter Lagrange points at 60 degrees only. Hard to imagine a scenario where an asteroid comes from outside or inside the orbit of Jupiter and stops at a Lagrange point. That's like tossing a cone on a table and trying to make it end up standing on its nose. Or make the nose flat, it is still very hard. With asteroids it seems impossible without some sort of "brake" applied at the right time. Maybe the influence from a neighbouring planet passing by at the right time or something? How can it happen with a neighbouring planet and how without a neighbouring planet?

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DaveC426913
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Well, sure other planets or asteroids, but remember, it is Jupiter that is doing most of the work. Asteroids that cross Jupiter's path when it is in the right position will be slowed down or sped up, altering their orbits. The Trojan points collect bodies because Jupiter is accelerating/decelerating them till they rest there.

I think it very likely that a quick Google will get hits that show the specific mechanisms that cause it. Have you done any research?

sophiecentaur
Give an example of an approach angle from outside the orbit that makes the asteroid end up at the Lagrange point. I think Jupiter would shoot it towards the inside or the outside, not towards the 60 degree Lagrange points.

DaveC426913
Gold Member
Give an example of an approach angle from outside the orbit that makes the asteroid end up at the Lagrange point. I think Jupiter would shoot it towards the inside or the outside, not towards the 60 degree Lagrange points.
Giving an example kind of sounds like a 'you' thing, not an 'us' thing.

What research have you done so far?

How would you phrase it then? It's really what I want. Not to put you on any spot, just how can it happen.

Maybe a gravitational simulator can be run in reverse order and we start with the asteroid at various points near a Lagrange point and with velocities near that point's velocity and see what happens, where the asteroid comes from. It has probably been oscillating around the point.

DaveC426913
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BTW, this is a dynamic animation of how asteroids in the trojans behave.

The green asteroids - while remaining within the Lagrange area, still perform some acrobatics.

Dragrath, Nik_2213, Keith_McClary and 7 others
Talking about the Jupiter Lagrange points at 60 degrees only. Hard to imagine a scenario where an asteroid comes from outside or inside the orbit of Jupiter and stops at a Lagrange point. That's like tossing a cone on a table and trying to make it end up standing on its nose. Or make the nose flat, it is still very hard. With asteroids it seems impossible without some sort of "brake" applied at the right time. Maybe the influence from a neighbouring planet passing by at the right time or something? How can it happen with a neighbouring planet and how without a neighbouring planet?
The asteroids at the Lagrange points don't "stop", nor do they orbit Jupiter. Those asteroids orbit the sun, and do so with the same periodicity as Jupiter. The trojan asteroids aren't actually "captured" (as in, they are flying somewhere, happen to cross the Lagrange point and suddenly turn in to a trojan, kind of "capture").

What happens is that, some asteroids that orbit the sun with specific periodicities are pertubed by the gravitational pull of Jupiter. Over time, this pertubation adjusts their orbits. Some asteroids get fling out of the solar system altogether. Some get flung towards the sun, or end up in highly elliptical orbits. A (lucky) few get pertubed in to the Lagrange points, where the interaction of gravitational effects of the Sun and Jupiter make that orbit very stable.

Such orbital pertubations happen over hundreds, if not thousands of orbits (and are only rarely successful in getting in to the Lagrange points). The animation posted by DaveC426913 shows (in an exaggerated manner) how this pertubation works.

In summary, asteroids don't stop or suddenly change their trajectories. Therefore, the example that you ask for doesn't exist.

Dragrath, Kelli Van Brunt, Nik_2213 and 2 others
Fascinating. So the Lagrange point opposite Jupiter cannot keep any asteroids. Maybe collisions with other asteroids are the only way they can get caught.

Orodruin
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It should be fairly self-evident that an object in a non-stable orbit can enter a stable orbit without external perturbations such as interactions with objects other than the two massive ones creating the Lagrange points. In general, it is a well known fact that only some of the Lagrange points are stable in the sense of allowing stable orbits, i.e., the Lagrange points themselves are just equilibria, not necessarily stable equilibria. Only L4 and L5 have stable orbits around them, as shown in the animation of post #7.

I think our issue is not whether a Lagrange point is stable, this is necessary but not sufficient for catching new asteroids from outside the orbit of Jupiter.

Orodruin
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I think our issue is not whether a Lagrange point is stable, this is necessary but not sufficient for catching new asteroids from outside the orbit of Jupiter.
It was clearly an issue for you here:
Fascinating. So the Lagrange point opposite Jupiter cannot keep any asteroids. Maybe collisions with other asteroids are the only way they can get caught.
The reason L1-3 cannot keep any asteroids is precisely that they are unstable.

Apart from that, see the first sentence of #9. Being in a stable orbit around it is the definition of having been ”caught by” a Lagrange point.

Read the topic title please. This is the issue. Anything can be mentioned if it is found interesting but that does not make it the issue in people's conversations. The definition of being caught is when you throw a ball and someone catches it. Being in a stable orbit is being kept in place after getting caught.

Orodruin
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Read the topic title please. This is the issue. Anything can be mentioned if it is found interesting but that does not make it the issue in people's conversations. The definition of being caught is when you throw a ball and someone catches it. Being in a stable orbit is being kept in place after getting caught.

gulfcoastfella and jim mcnamara
Read the topic title please. This is the issue. Anything can be mentioned if it is found interesting but that does not make it the issue in people's conversations. The definition of being caught is when you throw a ball and someone catches it. Being in a stable orbit is being kept in place after getting caught.
Please see my post (#8 in this thread). The definition of "caught" that you are using is wrong when applied to Lagrange asteroids. Therein lies the problem.

The asteroids don't get caught in to Lagrange points. They get slowly nudged and herded in to those positions over hundreds of orbits. This is similar to the mechanism that creates the gaps in Saturn's rings, for example.

Dragrath, gulfcoastfella, Klystron and 1 other person
sophiecentaur
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We only observe Trojans and Lagrange points for a short time. I suspect that any mechanism that doesn't actually involve Energy loss would have a number of asteroids leaving these groupings, going off round the Sun and, later, returning. In the absence of any loss mechanism, the total number of asteroids could remain pretty constant; they just spend most of their lives in lagrange points and the remaining time in a bigger orbit.
Can we be sure that this is not actually the case? Are there significant losses to stabilise the situation? I know there are tidal effects on the larger moons but can that happen with small lumps of rock?
If we had the time, we could 'ring' some asteroids (as is done with migratory birds) and identify their 'migrations'.

I thought all asteroids started their life somewhere else, not jupiter's orbit. So then we should be asking how did they get captured to jupiter's orbit before getting nudged and herded to the Lagrange points?

I propose that without collisions, and without neighbouring planets, capture to a Lagrange point is not possible and neither is convergence to it, for an asteroid coming from elsewhere. Any ideas/scenarios to refute this?

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I thought all asteroids started their life somewhere else, not jupiter's orbit. So then we should be asking how did they get captured to jupiter's orbit before getting nudged and herded to the Lagrange points?
Majority of them start their life in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. They don't stay there their whole life. The asteroids at the outer edge are pertubed by Jupiter, and those on the inner edge are pertubed by Mars. There are also collisions among the asteroids. These pertubations change the orbital mechanics of the asteroids. The lower energy orbits will move them closer to Jupiter and the higher energy orbits will move them closer to the Sun. In most cases, they will be forced in to highly elliptical orbits, or get flung out somewhere.

I propose that without collisions, and without neighbouring planets, capture to a Lagrange point is not possible and neither is convergence to it, for an asteroid coming from elsewhere. Any ideas/scenarios to refute this?
As I said before, "capture" as you define it, doesn't happen - not with Lagrange points, not with anything else. So yes, what you posit is true. I don't think anyone who understands basic orbital mechanics would propose anything different.

Orodruin
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I propose that without collisions, and without neighbouring planets, capture to a Lagrange point is not possible and neither is convergence to it, for an asteroid coming from elsewhere.
As I said, this much is obvious. Let me ask you a question: How do you think the Sun "captured" the planets? Regarding the Trojans, there are some theories regarding their origin already on the Wikipedia page that you took the image in the OP from.

"capture" as you define it, doesn't happen
You forgot convergence, I also proposed convergence to jupiter's orbit or Lagrange points is impossible for objects coming from elsewhere etc.

If collisions are an option, capture as dictionaries define it, is possible. As in, a ball can stop after hitting another or just move a little.

As I said, this much is obvious.
You were not talking about the same thing (the impossibility of capture/convergence of objects that are NOT in the formations of asteroids near the orbit of jupiter).

How do you think the Sun "captured" the planets?
Smaller pieces were attracted to each other, hit each other and coalesced.

Orodruin
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You were not talking about the same thing (the impossibility of capture/convergence of objects that are NOT in the formations of asteroids near the orbit of jupiter).
Yes I was, read it again. Where the objects are is irrelevant. Either an orbit is stable or it is not.
I also proposed convergence to jupiter's orbit or Lagrange points is impossible for objects coming from elsewhere etc.
Again, obvious.

You forgot convergence, I also proposed convergence to jupiter's orbit or Lagrange points is impossible for objects coming from elsewhere etc.
I would like to see your reasoning behind that, because you seem to be laboring under some misconception (assuming your term "coming from somewhere" means "originating in the asteroid belt").

Any asteroid crossing Jupiter's orbit while on a highly elliptical orbit won't be "captured" in Lagrange points. There is too much kinetic energy that needs to be released in such a case. If your "coming from elsewhere" refers to such objects - then, it's obvious.

If collisions are an option, capture as dictionaries define it, is possible. As in, a ball can stop after hitting another or just move a little.
Stop in relation to what? The entire solar system is in the Sun's gravity well, and objects near Jupiter are within its gravity well in addition. How can an object remain stationary in a gravity well?

Orbital mechanics are different from billiards. Unlike a billiard table, space has no friction. Capture, as you define it, is impossible. Nothing "stops" in space.

Smaller pieces were attracted to each other, hit each other and coalesced.
You didn't answer Orodruin's question. He asked how the Sun "captured" the planets. If you think about it, without being compelled to defend an untenable position, you will see the answer to the questions you have been asking.

sophiecentaur
Gold Member
Nothing "stops" in space.
That's a bit sweeping. If two objects are travelling towards each other with equal and opposite velocities in the Earth's frame (equal masses too) then they can coalesc and become stationary (Earth's frame) and be pulled directly to the Earth. An approximation to this could produce a stable Earth orbit. But this would need to involve loss of Energy in an inelastic interaction. A near miss through Jupiter's atmosphere could achieve something like that.

Jonathan212
That's a bit sweeping. If two objects are travelling towards each other with equal and opposite velocities in the Earth's frame (equal masses too) then they can coalesc and become stationary (Earth's frame) and be pulled directly to the Earth. An approximation to this could produce a stable Earth orbit. But this would need to involve loss of Energy in an inelastic interaction. A near miss through Jupiter's atmosphere could achieve something like that.
True. But the combined object still doesn't stand still (ie. "stop"). This was the premise of the OP, who assumes that an asteroid actually stops at the Lagrange points and gets pulled/pushed along by Jupiter. It doesn't. If it did, it will crash in to Jupiter and burn up. The asteroids at Jupiter's Lagrange points orbit the Sun - which the OP doesn't seem to understand.

sophiecentaur
Orodruin
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