Argument of periapsis

The argument of periapsis (also called argument of perifocus or argument of pericenter), symbolized as ω, is one of the orbital elements of an orbiting body. Parametrically, ω is the angle from the body's ascending node to its periapsis, measured in the direction of motion.

Fig. 1: Diagram of orbital elements, including the argument of periapsis (ω).

For specific types of orbits, terms such as argument of perihelion (for heliocentric orbits), argument of perigee (for geocentric orbits), argument of periastron (for orbits around stars), and so on, may be used (see apsis for more information).

An argument of periapsis of 0° means that the orbiting body will be at its closest approach to the central body at the same moment that it crosses the plane of reference from South to North. An argument of periapsis of 90° means that the orbiting body will reach periapsis at its northmost distance from the plane of reference.

Adding the argument of periapsis to the longitude of the ascending node gives the longitude of the periapsis. However, especially in discussions of binary stars and exoplanets, the terms "longitude of periapsis" or "longitude of periastron" are often used synonymously with "argument of periapsis".


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