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Gauss Theoria motus, Article 177 (Gauss (1963)).

In modern language ha = 1/V2, where a is the standard deviation of the distribution. Many names have been used for Gauss' error distribution; nowadays we refer to it as the 'normal distribution'.

be treated by minimizing a weighted sum of the squares of the errors. Gauss' treatment of least squares occupies only a small part of the Theoria motus.33 The much greater part was concerned with problems associated with the initial determination of an orbit from only a few observations.

Prior to the discovery of Ceres, there was little need for methods to determine general elliptic orbits. Apart from Uranus, for which a circular orbit proved a satisfactory first approximation, the only bodies for which orbits had been required were comets. During the period of visibility of a comet, the path it follows is, to all intents and purposes, parabolic, and this can be used to simplify the determination procedure. The first person to produce a general method for obtaining parabolic orbital parameters based on observations, was Newton, who published an approximate graphical solution to 'this exceedingly

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