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Questions for Revision (Gravitational Forces and Fields, Satellites)

1. A space traveller whose mass is 115 kg leaves earth. What are his weight and mass:
a. on earth and [Ans: mass = 115 kg, weight = 1.13 103 N]
b. in interplanetary space where there are no nearby planetary objects? [Ans: mass =
115 kg, weight = 0]

2. What is the acceleration due to gravity on the surface of Mars? The mass of Mars is 6.42
1023 kg and its radius is 3.38 106 m. [Ans: 3.75 m s-2]

3. The planet Mercury has a mass of only 0.055 times the mass of Earth and a radius 0.38
times that of Earths. What is the acceleration due to gravity on the surface of Mercury?
[Ans: 3.73 m s-2]

4. What is the acceleration due to gravity as an altitude of 2.0106 m above the earth's
surface? [Ans: 5.68 m s-2]

5. A satellite is in a circular orbit around an unknown planet. The satellite has a speed of
1.70104 m s-1, and the radius of the orbit is 5.25106 m. A second satellite also has a
circular orbit around this same planet. The orbit of this second satellite has a radius of
8.60106 m. What is the speed of the second satellite? [Ans: 1.33 104 m s-1]

6. A satellite is placed in orbit 6.00105 m above the surface of Jupiter. Jupiter has a mass
of 1.901027 kg and a radius of 7.14107 m. Find the orbital speed of the satellite. [Ans:
4.20 104 m s-1]

7. The moon orbits the earth at a distance of 3.84108 m. Assume that this distance is
between the centers of the earth and the moon and that the mass of the earth is 5.971024
kg. Find the period for the moon's motion around the earth. Express the answer in days.
[Ans: 27.4 days]

8. A geostationary Earth satellite is one that has an orbital period of precisely 1 day. Such
orbits are useful for communication and weather observation because the satellite
remains above the same point on Earth (provided it orbits in the equatorial plane in the
same direction as Earths rotation). Calculate the radius of such an orbit in km. [Ans:
4.22 104 km]

9. The Moon orbits the Earth at a mean orbital radius of 384 000 km and
with a period of 27.3 days. The gravitational attraction between the two
bodies provides the centripetal force needed to keep the Moon in orbit.

a. Calculate the orbital speed of the Moon. [Ans: 1.02 103 m s-1]

b. Hence calculate the centripetal acceleration of the Moon in its

orbit. [Ans: 2.72 10-3 m s-2]

c. Use your value of the centripetal acceleration of the Moon to calculate a value for
the mass of the Earth. [Ans: 6.02 1024 kg]

Imagine that the Earth had a second moon,

orbiting at exactly half the orbital radius of
the actual Moon.
d. Would the period of revolution of this
second moon have been larger, the
same or smaller than the period of
revolution of the Moon? [Ans:
e. Calculate the period of revolution of this second moon. [Ans: 9.65 days]
f. Would the period of revolution of this second moon have been affected by its
mass? Explain your answer briefly.

10. The following table shows data on a number of planets orbiting the Sun.

Planet Average distance from Period of orbit (T) in

the Sun (R) in metres seconds
Mercury 5.79 1010 7.60 106
Venus 1.08 1011 1.94 107
Earth 1.50 1011 3.16 107

a. Make necessary calculations to show that 3 = constant for planets orbiting the

b. Use Keplers Third Law to obtain Jupiters average distance from the Sun, given
that Jupiters orbital period is 11.8 Earth years. [Ans: 7.75 1011 m]

c. Scientists claimed to have discovered a tenth planet which they have called Sedna.
It is about three quarters the size of Pluto and is currently about 5.9 109
kilometres from the Sun. Its average distance from the Sun, however, is 7.1 1010
kilometres because its orbit is very elliptical. It is spinning very slowly, prompting
scientists to think that it may have a moon orbiting it. The best estimate of Sednas
orbital period is 10 500 Earth years.

i. Determine the average gravitational acceleration of Sedna towards the Sun.

[Ans: 2.55 10-8 m s-2]

ii. What two measurements about the motion of Sednas moon would
scientists have to make in order to ESTIMATE the mass of Sedna?