Geodetic and dynamical properties of planets


  • J. D. Anderson


The study of planetary dynamics and geodesy is a difficult subject. This is so, not simply because of the complexity of the interactions between several scientific disciplines, including geophysics, geology, geochemistry, seismology, celestial mechanics, radar astronomy, and meteoritics, but perhaps more fundamentally, because of a lack of data.

Although it is true that the space age has brought about important new observational techniques, which are responsible in large part for the rapid developments in planetary science over the past decade, and although we should expect to see significant progress in the field over the next few years, it is still a sad fact that data will be severely limited for an indefinite period of time in the future. The basic problem is that we can observe and study, at present, only one planetary system in the universe. This system, our solar system, contains only four major planets, five terrestrial planets, where we are inclined to include the moon but exclude Pluto, and a fairly hmited collection of debris, presumably left over from some inadequately understood formation process. Thus it is impossible to base the study of planets on a significant statistical sample.