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Article
Nature 361, 608 - 612 (18 February 1993); doi:10.1038/361608a0

The chaotic obliquity of the planets

J. Laskar & P. Robutel

Astronomie et Systèmes Dynamiques, Bureau des Longitudes, 77 Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, F-75014 Paris, France

Numerical study of the global stability of the spin-axis orientation (obliquity) of the planets against secular orbital perturbations shows that all of the terrestrial planets could have experienced large, chaotic variations in obliquity at some time in the past. The obliquity of Mars is still in a large chaotic region, ranging from 0° to 60°. Mercury and Venus have been stabilized by tidal dissipation, and the Earth may have been stabilized by capture of the Moon. None of the obliquities of the terrestrial planets can therefore be considered as primordial.

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