1 Department of Physics, Technical University of Denmark2 Biophysics and Fluids, Department of Physics, Technical University of Denmark3 Virginia Tech
Leapfrogging is a periodic solution of the four-vortex problem with two positive and two negative point vortices all of the same absolute circulation arranged as co-axial vortex pairs. The set of co-axial motions can be parameterized by the ratio 0 <α <1 of vortex pair sizes at the time when one pair passes through the other. Leapfrogging occurs for α > σ2, where is the silver ratio. The motion is known in full analytical detail since the 1877 thesis of Gröbli and a well known 1894 paper by Love. Acheson ["Instability of vortex leapfrogging," Eur. J. Phys.21, 269-273 (2000)]10.1088/0143-0807/21/3/310 determined by numerical experiments that leapfrogging is linearly unstable for σ2 <α <0.382, but apparently stable for larger α. Here we derive a linear system of equations governing small perturbations of the leapfrogging motion. We show that symmetry-breaking perturbations are essentially governed by a 2D linear system with time-periodic coefficients and perform a Floquet analysis. We find transition from linearly unstable to stable leapfrogging at α = φ2 ≈ 0.381966, where is the golden ratio. Acheson also suggested that there was a sharp transition between a "disintegration" instability mode, where two pairs fly off to infinity, and a "walkabout" mode, where the vortices depart from leapfrogging but still remain within a finite distance of one another. We show numerically that this transition is more gradual, a result that we relate to earlier investigations of chaotic scattering of vortex pairs [L. Tophøj and H. Aref, "Chaotic scattering of two identical point vortex pairs revisited," Phys. Fluids20, 093605 (2008)]10.1063/1.2974830. Both leapfrogging and "walkabout" motions can appear as intermediate states in chaotic scattering at the same values of linear impulse and energy.