There is a saying in celestial mechanics that ``no coordinate system is ever good enough.'' Indeed, choosing a convenient system of coordinates for the -body problem is one of the greatest difficulties in understanding its dynamics. Here is a brief explanation of a coordinate system for the 3-body problem.

The naïve way to define coordinates for the 3-body problem involves keeping track of three vectors of three components each. In such a case, describing the state of our system at any given time requires nine real numbers:

By boiling down our system to its essential features, we come up with a vastly simpler way of keeping track of the configuration of our bodies at any given point, using only two real numbers.

- Planar Configuration
- Removing Collisions
- Rotation Invariance
- Coordinates on the Shape Sphere
- Symbolic Dynamics and the Braid Group

Matthew Salomone 2003-07-24