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Chapter 12 (Unit 5

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Universal Gravitation

Kepler’s Three Laws

These laws are used to describe the motion of the planets.

Kepler’s First Law
“Planets move in elliptical orbits, with the Sun at one focus of the ellipse.” This does not sound very extreme, but at the time, Kepler was contending with both religious and philosophical views as well as opposing scientific observations. Ellipses were not considered to be “perfect”, so many astronomers resisted accepting any orbit other than a perfect circle.

Kepler’s Second Law

Kepler’s second law says that each of the shaded sections of the ellipse (below) has an equal area.

Kepler’s Second Law

So, the planet must be moving more rapidly when it is close to the Sun (larger distance in the same time frame).

Kepler’s Third Law

When Kepler published his third law, he had no way of knowingthe significance of the constant in the Mathematical expression r3/T2 = k All he knew was that the equation fit the data. Kepler suspected that the Sun was in some way influencing the motion of the planets, but he did not know how or why this would lead to a Mathematical relationship (Newton figured this out).

Universal Gravitation

Based off of Kepler’s third law (r3/T2 = k), Newton published one of the most famous and fundamental scientific works: Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica).

This book contained not only the law of universal gravitation, but also Newton’s three laws of motion.
He was successful in finding the law of universal gravitation because he extended the concept beyond just the planets and instead to all masses in all situations.

Universal Gravitation

Newton reasoned that the same attractive force that caused an apple to fall from a tree was must be the same as the force that existed between the Sun and the Earth.

He also reasoned that the force of gravity acting on a fallen object was proportional to the mass of the object.
Then, using his own law of action-reaction forces, he said that if a falling object such as an apple was attracted to the Earth, then the Earth must also be attracted to the apple, so the force of gravity must be

Universal Gravitation

Newton thus proposed that “the force of gravity between any two objects is proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.”

This became known as the law of universal gravitation:

Universal Gravitation

Universal Gravitation

We always use Fg=mg, so does this make what we’ve been doing wrong? Let’s try it and see.

Gravity and Kepler’s Laws

The numerical value of G, the universal gravitational constant, was not determine experimentally until more than 70 years after Newton’s death. Newton proved Kepler’s third law by showing the inverse square relationship between gravitational force and the distance between masses. Kepler’s second law showed us that planets move faster when they are close to the Sun, and more slowly when they are farther from the Sun.

Gravity and Kepler’s laws

Kepler’s third law simply states that the ratio r3/T2 is constant ad the same for each planet orbiting the Sun. At first glance, this seems to have nothing to do with Newton’s law of universal gravitation, but by using some simple substitutions we can show the relationship between them. To make it simpler, we will consider a circular orbit. The result we would obtain from an ellipse would be the same, but the math is much more difficult.

Gravity and Kepler’s Laws

Gravity and Kepler’s Laws

So, although Kepler had focussed his laws on only the Sun and planets, Newton showed that it is actually valid for all objects. So, these laws apply to all types of orbital motion, such as moons around planets. Today, we know that all of the artificial satellites orbiting Earth, as well as the Moon, follow Kepler’s laws.

Mass of the Sun and Planets

Have you ever wondered how it’s possible to “weigh” planets and stars? An English physicist named Henry Cavendish realized that if he could determine the gravitational constant, G, then he could use the mathematical relationship in Kepler’s third law to calculate the mass of the Sun. He was able to calculate a value of G=6.75x10-11 Nm2/kg2

Today, we say that it is G=6.67x10-11 Nm2/kg2

Mass of the Sun and Planets

Find the mass of the Sun, using Earth’s orbital radius and period of revolution (using Appendix B).

Model Problem
A 65.0kg astronaut is walking on the surface of the Moon, which has a mean radius of 1.74x103km and a mass of 7.35x1022kg. What is the weight of the astronaut?

Newton’s Mountain

The planets in our solar system appear to have been “orbiting” the Sun while they were forming. Great swirling dust clouds in space began to condense around a newly formed Sun until they because the planets. So we know that planets orbit the Sun, but how do artificial satellites begin orbiting Earth?

Newton’s Mountain

Newton reasoned that you could put a cannon at the top of an extremely high mountain and shoot a cannon ball horizontally. The cannon ball would definitely fall towards Earth, because of the gravity pulling it down, but if it travelled far enough horizontally while it fell then the curvature of the Earth would be such that Earth’s surface would “fall away” as fast as the cannon ball fell.

Newton’s Mountain

Newton’s Mountain

You can determine how far a cannon ball will fall in one second by using kinematics:

From the size of the curvature of the Earth, Newton knew that Earth’s surface would drop by this distance over a horizontal distance of 8m.

Newton’s Mountain

This reasoning was completely correct, except for one thing that Newton forgot.

Although the air is too thin to breathe easily at the top of Mount Everest, it would still exert a huge amount of air friction on an object moving at 8km/s.

Newton’s Mountain

However, if you could take the cannon to 150m above Earth’s surface, the atmosphere would be so thin that air friction would be negligible. Newton knew how to put satellites into orbit, he just didn’t have the technology to do it!

Newton’s Mountain

Today, launching satellites into orbit is almost routine, but the scientists and engineers involved must still be extremely accurate in their calculations, based on how high they want to satellite to orbit.

Some satellites orbit over the North and South Poles at a relatively low altitude so they can collect weather data.