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Gravitational Energy

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Lecture 30

Gravitational Energy

Gravitational Potential Energy

Gravitational potential

energy of an object of

mass m a distance r from

the Earths center:

Gravitational Potential Energy

Very close to the Earths surface, the

gravitational potential increases linearly with

altitude:

all other forms of energy, is a scalar. It

therefore has no components; just a sign.

Energy Conservation

Total mechanical energy of an object of mass

m a distance r from the center of the Earth is:

object approaches the Earth, it moves faster

and faster.

Energy Conservation

the Earths gravity well,

(e.g., a comet), initially with

zero mechanical energy.

Example: Escape Speed

A 1000 kg rocket is fired straight away from the surface of the Earth.

What speed does it need to escape from the gravitational pull of the

Earth and never return? (Assume a non-rotating Earth.)

atmosphere) a meteor, falling from very far away, would strike

the surface of the Earth. It is also called escape velocity.

Example: Crashing into the Sun

Suppose the Earth were suddenly

to halt its motion in orbiting the Sun.

The gravitational force would pull it

directly into the Sun.

What would be its speed as it

crashed?

Example:

The Height of a Projectile

A projectile is fired straight up from the Earths South Pole with an

initial speed vi = 8.0 km/s.

Satellite Orbits and Energies

circular orbit depends on the gravitational

potential energy Ug of the satellite at the

radius of the orbit. The needed tangential

velocity v is independent of the mass m of

the satellite (provided m<<M).

Notice that to make v larger, you need to go

deeper into the gravity well, i.e., to a lower orbit

where Ug is larger and r is smaller.

Orbital Energetics

effect, it says that for a planet in orbit around the Sun, if you

turned its velocity by 90o, so that it pointed straight out of the

Solar System, you would have only half the kinetic energy needed

to escape the Suns gravity well.

Example:

The Total Energy of a Satellite

Show that the total energy of a satellite in a circular orbit around the

Earth is half of its gravitational potential energy.

general result, and is called the Virial Theorem. The

factor of is a consequence of the inverse square law.

Example:

A Gravity Map of the Earth

Twin satellites launched March 2002

are making detailed measurements of the

Earths gravitational field. They are in

identical orbits, with one satellite in front

of the other by 220 km. The distance

between the satellites is continuously

monitored with micrometer accuracy using

onboard microwave telemetry equipment.

How does the distance between the

satellites change as the satellites

approach a region of increased mass?

they are pulled forward by it, but the leading satellite

experiences a greater force that the trailing satellite.

Therefore, the distance between them increases,

providing an indication of a mass concentration.

g for a Solid Sphere

Tides

Usually we can treat planets, moons, and stars

as though they were point objects, but in fact

they are not.

forces on each other, the force on the near side

is larger than the force on the far side, because

the near side is closer to the other object.

an object due to its size is called a tidal force.

Tides

Tidal forces can result in orbital locking,

where the moon always has the same face

towards the planet as does Earths Moon.

the tidal forces can be strong enough to tear

the moon apart. This occurs inside the Roche

limit; closer to the planet we have rings, not

moons.

Tides

This figure illustrates a general tidal force on

the left, and the result of lunar tidal forces on

the Earth on the right.

Tides

Which has a larger effect on the Earths ocean tides,

the Sun or the Moon?

the tidal effect of a given celestial object:

(1) The third power of the angular size of the object in

the sky, and

Moon have almost exactly the same size in the sky (so

solar eclipses are possible), but the Moon has 3 times

the mass density of the Sun. Therefore, the Moons

tidal effect on Earths oceans is 3 times that of the Sun.

Black Holes

Black holes:

If an object is sufficiently massive and sufficiently small,

the escape speed will equal or exceed the speed of light, so

that light itself will not be able to escape the surface.

believed that there is a large

black hole (thousands of solar

masses) at the center of our

galaxy. It would have a radius

of about 1.33 x 1010 m, about

0.089 AU.

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