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We saw earlier, in Section 6.2, that an isolated dynamical system consisting of two
freely moving point masses exerting forces on one another--which is usually referred to
as a *two-body problem*--can always be converted into an equivalent
one-body problem. In particular, this implies that we can *exactly solve* a dynamical system containing *two* gravitationally interacting
point masses, since the equivalent one-body problem
is exactly soluble--see Chapter 5 and Section 6.3. What about a system containing
*three* gravitationally interacting point masses? Despite hundreds of years of research, no exact solution
of this famous problem--which is generally
known as the *three-body problem*--has ever been found. It is, however, possible
to make some progress by severely restricting the problem's scope.

Richard Fitzpatrick
2011-03-31