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Earths Gravitational Field

Weight of an object is the amount of force due to gravity acting upon that object,
without air resistance this force will be the same for all objects regardless of
mass or size. This acceleration is gravity. (9.8m/s)
This idea is represented by the formula W = mg
Where W is weight in Newtons, m is mass in kilograms and g is acceleration due
to gravity (9.8 m/s)
Gravity is able to act upon an object without physical contact, the area in which
an object is effected by gravity is known as a gravitational field. These fields
surround anything with mass, the larger the mass the larger the gravitational
A common experiment to measure acceleration due to gravity uses a pendulum.
By accurately timing 10 swing of a pendulum and then dividing by 10 the period
can be measured. (time for one swing to complete). The period is then squared
and plotted against the length of the pendulum.
There is a direct correlation between period squared and length of pendulum,
one can then calculate gravity using these two figures.
Miscalculation of g is often due to inaccurately measuring pendulum swings,
either miscounted or the swing may not be smooth, I.E the pendulum is jumping
around it will effect end result.
Potential energy is the energy an object has due to its mass and height above
the earth. As the object falls it loses gravitational potential energy and gains
kinetic energy. However, the point where an object has no gravitational potential
energy, is not on the earth but rather an infinite distance away.
Gravitational potential is a measure of the work done to move an object from
infinity to a point within the gravitational field. As the object is attracted to the
earth, therefore no work is needed to bring it closer to earth, work is needed to
push it further away. As the definition is the opposite, the value for Gravitational
potential energy will be negative.
Acceleration due to gravity varies depending where one is. As g varies and
weight = mg, therefore ones weight varies too.

Real short summary

Gravity on earth is 9.8 ms, same for all objects. Larger the mass
larger the gravity. Pendulums period and the length of the
pendulum can be used to calculate g. gravitational potential
energy calculations will be negative, and refers to the work
needed to move an object away from the earth. G on other
celestial bodies changes.

Launching into space

Projectile Motion
A projectile is any object that is launched and then only moves under the
influence of gravity. E.g. golf ball after being struck. Air resistance is ignored in
these topics. The object moves as a parabola, its horizontal velocity is constant
and its vertical motion is constant as It always accelerates at 9.8 ms. These two
motions need to be analysed separately.
At the midpoint of the flight (vertex of parabola) the vertical velocity will be 0.

Initial vertical velocity = initial velocity X sin

Horizontal velocity = Initial velocity X Cos

Horizontal velocity = Distance covered / time passed

Vertical velocity = initial vertical velocity + g.t
Vertical displacement = initial vertical velocity X time + X g X t squared.
Notice how mass is not relevant in any calculation.
This is because gravity has the same effect on all objects regardless of mass, it
was Galileo who first said this, he studied projectile motion and noticed how balls
of different mass would roll down the hill at the same rate. He was unable to
explore further as he lacked mathematical formulas.
Isaac Newton developed the maths and discovered the law of motion and
gravity, he then looked at projectile motion.

Escape Velocity
Newton imagined firing a cannon ball from the top of a mountain, and
understood that the higher the launch velocity the higher the range. He
questioned if launch velocity was high enough could the projectile escape earths
gravity. At the correct velocity the projectile should curve downwards at the
same rate as the earth curves. He had discovered the concept of gravitational
orbit and escape velocity.
Escape velocity is the launch velocity needed for a projectile to escape earth
gravitational force.
The mass of the projectile is again not a factor. Therefore, all projectiles
regardless of mass need the same initial launch velocity to escape from earth.
A projectile that falls with the same curvature as the earth is in orbit. The speed
to launch a projectile in this motion is approximately 8 km per second. A 19 th
century author Jules Verne suggested to launch a space capsule out of a giant
cannon to launch people to space. However, as F = ma one can calculate the
force needed and it would be too great to safely move the space capsule to
space. The forces would have a g force of about 200g, anything over 10g is life

Lift Of
Nazi Germanys, Werner Von Braun who along with others developed the liquid
fuel V2 rocket to deliver explosive warheads at supersonic speeds from hundreds
of kilometres away. At the end of WW2, the rockets and scientist were captured
by either the Americans or the Russians, the scientists continued to work in
these new countries and helped lead Russia to launch the sputnik in 1957, and
helped the Americans do the first manned mission to the moon in 1969.
Since then the use of satellites has become instrumental in or lives, being used
for communication.
A satellite is launched towards the east, as it uses the earth rotation to aid its
escape velocity. Near the equator the earths spins the fastest at about 0.5 km/s.
It is for this reason rockets are often launched as close to the equator as
possible. Newtowns 3rd law said that the force on exhaust gas = force on the
rocket. The force of the exhaust gases stays fairly constant during lift off,
however the mass of the rocket decreases as fuel is brunt, therefore the rocket
increases it velocity to maintain the conservation of momentum.
The thrust of a rocket stays constant, the acceleration increases due to a loss of
mass though the burning of fuel, the acceleration is further increased as g
decreases with altitude. This results in the rocket getting faster and faster, this
results in astronauts experiencing higher and higher g forces throughout the
duration of take-off. Originally the g force felt may be 2g, however after several
minutes they may feel 7g.

Orbiting and Re entry

In Orbit
There are 2 main types of satellite orbits, low earth and geostationary.
Low earth orbits have a satellite orbiting the earth anywhere between 200 to
1000 km above the earth. For any satellite the closer they are to the earth the
faster it must travel to stay in orbit, therefore low earth orbits can orbit the earth
in only a few hours. A common low earth orbit is a polar orbit, in which the
satellite tracks over the north and south pole with the earth rotating underneath
it. The orbit only moves over the north and south pole, this is useful for satellite
imaging as the satellite is close to the earth and fine details can be seen by the
satellite, the satellite at any one time can only see a small slice of the earth
however as the earth rotates, each orbit shows a different slice, and eventually
due to the earth rotation the entire earth can be surveyed.
Geostationary orbits are those where the satellites period is the same as the
earth, meaning it take 24 hours for the satellite to orbit the earth. This results in
the satellite always being over the same spot on the earth, and it appears to
remain motionless in the sky. Geostationary orbits are usually over the equator at
an altitude of about 36 000 km above the earth. These satellites are used for
communication, as they stay in the same spot, satellite dishes can always be
aimed at the satellite. 3 geostationary satellites spaced evenly over the equator
can cover almost the whole earth with their transmissions.
To maintain a circular motion a centripetal force must act upon it.
Centripetal force = (mass X orbital velocity squared) / Radius
If only altitude is given, the radius of the earth will need to be added to this
figure to get the radius of the satellite to the earth
When Johannes Kepler studied the movement of the planets around the sun, he
discovered that there was always a mathematical relationship between the
period of the obit and its radius.
Radius cubed / Period squared is always a constant
Kepler did not understand why this was so, however when Isaac newton
developed his law of universal gravitation, he was able to prove the theoretical
basis for Kepler law.

R 3 GM
T2 42

Above one can see that all values on the right is constant, this proves that
Keplers law should be constant too.
It is generally agreed that space begins about 100 km above the earth, one
would presume that this would be a vacuum, a complete absence of everything
however there are still small molecules and gases which extend hundreds of
kilometres passed this. Therefore, low earth orbits will collide with these
particles. The effects that this has is known as orbital decay. The friction or air
resistance that these particles result in, forces the satellite to lose speed, albeit a
tiny amount of air resistance, over months and years it will have a significant
effect on the satellite. As it decays the satellite will begin to spiral downwards
towards the earth. As its altitude decreases so it will encounter more particles
and therefore orbital decay will increase. If the altitude drops to 100km, the
friction will be too large and the satellite may burn up and crash to the earth.
Modern satellites are designed so that it can reach the low earth orbit with spare
fuel, and as its speed decreases short rocket burns provide enough boost to
maintain the speed required. By doing this satellites can stay in orbit for man
many years.

For a satellite or space ship to renter from orbit, it must safely lose almost all
their gravitation potential energy and velocity. It is impossible for rockets to carry
enough fuel to burn to decrease their speed during retry, retro rockets are fired
to decrease the speed just enough so it can enter the top of the atmosphere. The
atmosphere then decelerates the capsule, and it converts the kinetic energy in
potential energy. The satellite or ship must enter the atmosphere at the correct
angle, to steep and it will burn up and be destroyed, to weak and it will bounce
off the atmosphere. The correct angle is between 5 and 7 degrees.

Gravity in the solar system

Law of Universal Gravitation
Newtons Law of Gravity
Isaac Newton discovered the strength of the gravitational force between 2
masses, he discovered it was proportional to the product to the masses and
inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This lead to
the formula:
Gravitational Force = Universal gravitational constant X Mass of object 1 X Mass
of object 2 / distance squared


The Masss involved and/or the distance directly effects the value for
gravitational force. The simplest equation would occur if both masses were 1kg
and he distance was 1, therefore Fg=G.
If one of the masses is doubled, it would double the force as Fg=Gx2x1 / 1x1
If both mases were doubled, it would quadruple the force as Fg=Gx2x2/1x1
If only the distance was doubled, he force would be a quarter as Fg=1x1/2x2

Gravitational Fields
Gravitational force provides the centripetal force that holds any satellite in orbit,
and is the basis of Keplers law of periods. This equation applies to natural
celestial bodies such as the moons orbit around the earth or earth orbit around
the sun too. Gravity holds the entire universe together and its strength
compared to the big bang, will determine the final fate of the universe.

Slingshot Efect
As space probes cost billions of dollars to create and send to space, scientist
wish to reuse the same probe, as it would be impossible to carry enough fuel on
board to change course once in space multiple times, scientists use was it called
the slingshot effect. This uses the gravitational strength of masses in space to
change the probes velocity. As the probe enters a planets gravity is spun round,
given mores speed and a change in direction without using any fuel. As energy
has to be conserved the rotation of the planet will slow down, however the
difference in weight between the large planet and the relatively small probe with
mean the effect on the planet will be negligible.

Space and Time

Aether Model
The idea of the Aether was created to explain the transmission of light through
space and through transparent substances such as glass. It was believed that all
waves need a medium to travel yet light could seemingly travel without one.
Between the 17th and 19th century, it was believed there was a substance called
the aether that filled every space through the universe, and it was the medium
for light to pass. The Aether was weightless and invisible.
In an attempt to prove the existence of the Aether, American scientists AA
Michelson and EW Morley attempted an experiment in 1887. The tried to see
how the aether would affect the transmission of light. If there was an aether
wind, and the light flowed through the aether, then the speed of light and the
time it takes for it to pass a certain distance should vary as the aether wind
The Michelson and Morley experiment sent 2 light beams at right angles to each
other, they then reflected off mirrors into a receiver. Both traveling the exact
same distance. If one of the beams took longer to make it to the receiver it would
suggest the existence of aether wind. The experiment was mounted on a
floating platform and the platform was rotated 90 degrees, theoretically this
should of lead to a different result however there was no change.
The experiment was repeated many time in different location and the result
never differed.
No effect of the aether could be detected; this did not disprove the aether
however it made it incredibly unlikely.
The Michelson Morley is not viewed as a failure but rather a necessary step in
the search for truth.
30 years after the Michelson Morely experiment a new theory was thought of,
This theory did not need an aether, this lead to many predictions that were
confirmed by experiment, this lead to the understanding that the aether theory
is wrong and the theory of relativity is correct.

Special Relativity
The only way to see if one is moving is to look at a fixed point, for example
sitting on an aeroplane one has to look out the window to at the ground to see if
they are really moving. A fixed point in necessary to determine the nature of
movement, however there is no absolute fixed point in the universe, as the entire
universe is expanding. Sir Isaac Newton was aware of this idea and understood
that it did not matter if the fixed point was stull or moving at a constant velocity,
it could just not be accelerating. The lead to the idea of an inertial frame of
An inertial frame of reference is non accelerating, a non-inertial frame of
reference is accelerating. One can distinguish these by hanging a pendulum from
the roof of the moving object. If it still or at a constant velocity the pendulum will
hang straight down, if the movement is accelerating it will hang at an angle.
Principles of Relativity
- In an inertial frame of reference all measurements and experiments give
the same results.
- It is impossible to detect the motion of an inertial frame of reference by
experiment within that frame of reference
- The only way to measure the motion of your frame of reference is by
measuring it against someone elses frame of reference.

Consequences of Special Relatiivity

Albert Einstein theory of relativity
Einstein asked what would happen if one was traveling at the speed of light and
looked at a mirror. The classical physics would suggest that the wind of the
aether is also traveling at the speed of light and therefore the light itself would
never catch up to the mirror to be reflected. The theory of relativity suggests
that the light would travel in your frame of reference exactly the same as it does
anywhere else, and therefore it would reflect back to you like normal.
However, what would the person standing outside of the train see, if the light
had an initial velocity of the speed of light as it was moving on the train, and
then was projected forward at the speed of light, would an observe see the light
traveling at twice its regular speed.
Einstein suggests that the speed of light is constant and therefore space and
time is relative.
This suggests that the observer would see the train as a compressed version of
itself and the watches of the passengers ticking slower than regular, and the
passengers on the train would see the observers in the same way.

The speed of light is always the same for observers in

inertial frames of reference and therefore length and time
must change as measured by another observer who is in
relative motion.
Length (distance) decreases and time increases as velocity increases.



1 2

- t=Time observed by outside observer
- To = time measured within frame of reference
- v= relative velocity of observer
- c = speed of light

l=l 1( )

- l = length observed by an outside observer
- lo = rest length measured within the frame of reference
- v = relative velocity of observer
- c= speed of light
Time dilatation has been proven by the use of 2 highly accurate atomic clocks
that have been synched to one another, one then was flown around the world in
a super-fast plane the other idle. The clock that had flown around the world was
slightly behind the other clock.
Einstein published his theory in 2 parts in 1905 and 1915, his theory was tested
by many scientists who looked for predictions and then tested them, the first of
was the idea that light from a distant star passing close the sun should be bent
by a measureable amount making the star appear to change position in the sky,
they tested this during a solar eclipse and results were exactly as predicted by
relativity. In later years experiment involved nuclear reaction (Which lead to the
atomic bomb) proved conservation of matter into energy according o E = MCxC.
Mass also changes as velocity increases.


- m = mass observed by an outside observer
- mo = rest mass measured within frame of reference
- v= relative velocity of observer
- c = speed of light
It is stated in the conservation of energy and conservation of matter that energy
and matter (mass) cannot be created nor destroyed.
Einstein found that the only way to avoid breaking these laws under relativity
was to combine them. Thus E=mcxc was discovered.

Many of the relativity equation contain the factory 1(

) This is known as

the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction (LFC) .

If v = 0, LFC = sq.root (1-0) = 1
This means that if you and the observer watching you have zero relative velocity
(traveling at the same relative speed) then all measurement by both parties will
be the same. (same mass, same length, same time)
As v increases the value of LFC decreases, the closer it gets to the speed of light
LFC approaches zero. If that were to occur, the observer would see you disappear
as your length approaches zero, time would stop and your mass would approach
infinity. Therefore, it is said that no object could ever reach the speed of light
and therefore v cannot equal c