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Gravity

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You are on page 1of 14

We now know that planets orbit the Sun in much the same way that the Moon orbits

the earth. However, in the not so distant past, we thought that all planets (including the

Sun) orbited around the Earth.

Johannes Kepler is the scientist given credit for describing the motion of the Earth,

Sun, Moon and other planetary bodies relative to each other.

He proposed three laws that represent the motion of planets around the Sun.

Kepler’s First Law: The paths of the planets are ellipses with the Sun at one of the two

focal points.

Kepler’s Second Law: An imaginary line drawn from the sun to a planet will sweep

out equal areas during equal time intervals. This law essentially explains that planets

will move faster when they are closer to the Sun than when they are farther away.

Kepler’s Third Law: The ratio of the period squared for two planets is equal to the

cube of the ratio of the average distance of the two planets from the Sun.

TA 2 rA 3

( ) ( )

TB

=

rB

Kepler’s Third Law can be used for other systems besides planets orbiting the sun. For

example, if a planet has several moons orbiting it, the moons will also obey Kepler’s

Third Law.

TA 2 rA 3

( ) ( )

TB

=

rB

Example: Planet Q has two moons orbiting it. Moon a has a period of 7.4 days and

has an average distance of 1.7X104 mi from planet Q. If Moon b has a period of 24.7

days, what is the average distance of Moon b from planet Q?

Remember that we can assign variables in whichever way makes the problem

Click to see easier.

Solution

With that in mind let: TA = period of Moon b = 24.7 days

TB = period of Moon a = 7.4 days

rA = radius of Moon b = ?

rB = radius of Moon a = 1.7X104 mi

Rearranging Kepler’s 3rd Law gives:

( ) ( )

3 2 3 2

TA 24.7 d

rA = rB rA = (1.7X104 mi)

TB 7.4 d

rA = 3.8X104 mi

See example problem and practice problems on page 174

While Kepler’s Laws do accurately represent the motion of the planets around the

Sun, they do not explain why the planets and moons behave the way they do.

It was not until Sir Isaac Newton proposed the Law of Universal Gravitation that we

really understood why the planets and moons move the way they do.

The law states that the gravitational force (Fg) is equal to the universal gravitational

constant (G) times the mass of object 1 times the mass of object 2 divided by the

square of the distance between the two objects.

m1m2

Fg = G

r2

If we link Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation with Kepler’s 3rd Law, we can

derive the formula for the period of a planet orbiting the Sun (T).

( )

r3

T = 2p

Gms

G is the universal gravitational constant

ms is the mass of the sun

Can you use the above equation to prove that it can be used to create Kepler’s 3rd Law?

Period of planet “a” Period of planet “b”

( ) ( )

ra3 rb3 to see Solution

Click

Ta = 2p Tb = 2p

Gms Gms

( )

ra3 Squaring both sides and canceling out terms gives

2p

Ta Gms

Ta 2 ra 3

=

( ) ( )

=

( )

Tb rb3 Tb rb

2p

Gms

In 1798 Henry Cavendish was able to actually determine the value of G

One important side result to measuring the value of G is that we can use it to

calculate the mass of the Earth (assuming that we know the radius of the Earth).

We have two related equations: one for the gravitational force between two objects

and one for the force of Earth’s gravity accelerating on an object on the Earth.

mE m

Fg = G Fg = mg

rE2

Setting these two equations equal to each other will allow us to solve for the mass of

the Earth

grE2

mE = = 5.98X1024 kg

G

Using the Law of Universal Gravitation Equation

wants to put a satellite into orbit.

A satellite moves in a circular orbit around Earth (assuming that is remains a

constant distance from the center of the Earth). Therefore equations relating to

centripetal acceleration will be important.

2

ac = Fnet = mac

r

m2

Which after substitution gives: Fnet =

r

mEm m2

Fnet = G =

rE2 r

Solving for velocity will allow us to find the equation that relates the velocity of a

satellite to the radius of its orbit.

=

( ) GmE

r

( )

We can use the equation for the period of a planet

r3

T = 2p orbiting the Sun to create a general equation for any

Gms small object orbiting a larger object.

( )

r3

Ts = 2p

Gmp

Where Ts is the period of the satellite (small object) and mp is the mass of the planet

(large object) it is orbiting and r is the radius of the orbit (note that the radius of the

orbit includes the radius of the planet and the height of the satellite above the

surface of the planet).

Example: If we want to make a satellite orbit the Earth at a distance of 155 km above

the surface of the Earth, how fast will we need to make the satellite travel and what

will the period of the satellite be at this location?

We will need equations being discussed on the last two slides. In addition, we will

need the value of G, mE and rE. Click to see Solution

( ) ( )

GmE r3

= Ts = 2p

Gmp

r

=

( (6.67X10−11 Nm2/kg2)(5.97X1024 kg)

6.535X106 m ) = 7806 m/s = 7810 m/s

Ts = 2p

( (6.535X106 m)3

(6.67X10−11 Nm2/kg2)(5.97X1024 kg) ) Ts = 5,260 s = 1.46 h

By manipulating some of the equations we have been working with we can create

equations that have new meaning to us.

mE m

Fnet = G = ma Equation for any free falling object near Earth’s surface.

r2

mE mE

Near Earth’s surface, a = g and r = rE so g= G 2 or a = G 2

rE r

substituting for mE will give:

ah = g ()

r significant distance above Earth’s surface

Note that r = rE + h so the acceleration due to gravity will get smaller as the

distance from Earth increases.

Find the acceleration due to gravity at an distance of 500 km from Earth’s surface.

Have you ever experienced weightlessness?

Remember that Weight and Mass are two very different things. Mass is the amount

of matter and has units of g or kg. Weight is a field force (see page 94) on a mass

due to gravity and has units of N. Therefore an object’s Weight depends upon

gravity.

However, there are many situations where our apparent weight depends not only

upon gravity but also upon the motion we are experiencing.

When an elevator starts to move, your apparent weight briefly changes. You feel

heavier if the elevator is accelerating upward and you feel lighter than normal if the

elevator is accelerating downward. Can you think of other similar situations?

An extreme version of this is the weightlessness that astronauts feel when they are in

orbit around the Earth. Note that while in orbit around Earth, the acceleration due to

gravity (g) is almost the same size as it is on the surface of the Earth. If the change

in the acceleration due to gravity is not the cause of the feeling of weightlessness,

what is?

Gravitational Field

A gravitational field is created by all objects having mass. The mass of the

object will attract other objects toward it from any direction (a spherical field).

The strength of the gravitational field (g) depends upon the mass of object A

creating the field and the distance you are from the center of mass as shown by

the equation below.

mA

g= G 2

r

The force exerted on an object B in the field will be the object B’s mass times

the strength of the gravitational field.

F = mBg

Note that the “m” in the two equations represent different masses. The “mA” in

the first equation is the mass of object A (the object that is creating the

gravitational field, usually thought of as being the larger mass of the two objects)

while the “mB” is the mass of object B (the object that is experiencing the

gravitational field. (In reality all objects create a gravitational field, but we usually

look at the problem from the perspective of the larger mass).

The gravitational field that is created by an object will attract any mass near it.

The shorter the distance between the two objects, the stronger the force of attraction.

The larger the masses of the objects, the stronger the force of attraction.

When we think of a planet orbiting the Sun, we usually think that the Sun is directly

attracting the planet, but the reality is more that the gravitational field of the Sun

interacts with the mass of the planet and this is what causes the planet to be attracted

toward the Sun.

Note that the gravitational field of the planet is also attracting the Sun, but since the

Sun has so much more mass than the planet, the planet is thought of as being the

object that moves toward the Sun and not the other way around.

Note that the symbol “g” being used for the gravitational field is the same as the “g”

we used for the acceleration due to gravity (9.80 m/s2) but the meaning is a little

different. The acceleration due to gravity is a vector quantity showing how an

object in another object’s gravitational field will be accelerated but the gravitational

field is acting over all of space and will be oriented toward the center of mass of the

object creating the field and changes with the distance from the center of mass.

Inertial Mass and Gravitational Mass

Inertial Mass is the definition of mass based on the amount of force required to

accelerate an object.

Gravitational Mass is the definition of mass based on the force of gravity acting on

an object.

We can write the equations for Inertial Mass and Gravitational Mass by rearranging

two existing equations as shown below.

mgravm

Fnet= minertiala Fgrav = G

r2

Fnet r2Fgrav

minartial = mgrav =

a Gm

Newton proposed the idea that these two ways of defining mass are the same. So far,

all experiments support this idea.

However, there may still be more to the story. Einstein proposed that gravity is not a

force but instead is a result of the way mass effects space itself.

According to Einstein, mass causes space to be curved instead of flat. The more

massive the object, the greater the curvature of space.

For ordinary objects (like planets orbiting the Sun), Einstein’s idea gives the same

results as Newton’s idea.

For Newton, gravity attracts the planet toward the Sun and for Einstein the planet

will be following a curved path around the Sun that is created by the way that the

Sun curves space around it.

However, Einstein’s idea predicts that light should follow a curved path as it travels

past a very massive object while Newton’s idea would predict that light would

travel in a straight line.

See Figures 7-15 and 7-16 on pages 184 and 185 respectively for illustrations of

Einstein’s idea about gravity and space.

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