Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The present paper reviews the Nekhoroshev theorem from the point of view of physicists and astronomers. We point out that Nekhoroshev result is strictly connected with the existence of a specific structure of the phase space, the existence of which can be checked with several numerical tools. This is true also for a degenerate system such as the one describing the motion of an asteroid in the so called main belt. The main difference is that in some parts of the belt, the Nekhoroshev result cannot apply a priori. Mean motion resonances of order smaller than the logarithm of the mass of Jupiter and first order secular resonances must be excluded. In the remaining parts, conversely, the Nekhoroshev theorem can be proved, provided someparameters, such as the masses, the eccentricities and the inclinations of the planets are small enough. At the light of this result, a massive campaign of numerical integrations of real and fictitious asteroids should allow to understand which is the real dynamical structure of the asteroid belt.
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