Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 1991. 29:
239-274
Copyright © 1991 by . All rights reserved |

**2.2 Triaxial Models without Figure Rotation**

2.2.1 *E*. Although there are three
planes of reflection symmetry, there are no symmetry axes, and no component of
the angular momentum vector is conserved. In a pioneering study, Schwarzschild
(305,
306)
showed by numerical orbit calculations
that in triaxial potentials relevant for elliptical galaxies most stellar
orbits possess two effective integrals, *I*_{2} and
*I*_{3}, in addition to the
energy. The fraction of irregular orbits is small
(145).
As a result, most orbits belong to one of only a few major families: box
orbits, short-axis tube orbits, and long-axis tube orbits
(80,
198).
Tube orbits around the intermediate axis are unstable
(153).
The long-axis tubes come in two varieties,
bringing the total number of major orbit families to four. Schwarzschild
showed for a specific triaxial mass model - first with a stationary figure,
and subsequently with a tumbling figure - that it is possible to combine the
individual orbital densities in the associated gravitational potential so that
they reproduce the original mass model. This is equivalent to finding a
distribution function *f* that is consistent with the mass model
(348),
and hence Schwarzschild's work demonstrated that
self-consistent triaxial galaxy models exist, with and without figure
rotation. Similar conclusions were reached on the basis of N-body simulations
(2,
248,
250,
251,
371,
Section 2.7).

2.2.2

It is also possible that different combinations of orbits with truly distinct shapes produce the same triaxial density distribution. Thus, there is a large degree of non-uniqueness in the distribution functions consistent with a given three-dimensional mass model. The purpose of the recent work on triaxial models is to explore this freedom in model building and to construct large sets of models which can be compared to observations. The main questions are: what are the permitted intrinsic shapes, figure rotation rates, and streaming velocities, and what constraints on the structure of elliptical galaxies can be deduced from detailed observations? We are still far from answering these questions satisfactorily, but many of the necessary tools have been developed. Specifically, much can be learnt from a study of special models for which sufficient simplification occurs so that whole families of them can be studied. Two useful classes of such models are known. These are the separable or Stäckel models, and the scale-free models. We discuss each of these in turn.