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## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 1 6/20/09 4:43:04 PM

1 Gravity
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Knowledge and understanding \\\\\\\
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When you have finished this chapter, you should be able to: \\\\\\\\\
define weight as the force on an object due to a gravitational field analyse information using the expression F  mg to determine the
explain that a change in gravitational potential energy is related to weight force for a body on Earth and for the same body on other \\\\\\\\\
work done planets. \\\\\\\\\
define gravitational potential energy as the work done to move \\\\\\\\\
an object from a very large distance away to a point in a gravitational \\\\\\\\\
m1 m2
field, Ep  G_____
r \\\\\\\\\
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## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 2 6/20/09 4:43:17 PM

Module 1
Chapter 1 \\ Gravity 3

Figure 1.1 Gravity is acting on the airborne skier. Figure 1.2 Many forces act on the occupants of a
roller-coaster.

## 1.1 Mass and weight

Any object released from the window of a high-rise building will gain Calculating the weight of
speed as it falls. This means two things: first, there must be a force acting objects on other planets,
pages 78, Practical Physics
on the object; second, the object accelerates. for Senior Students, HSC
If you drop a stone and a piece of paper from near the ceiling of a room,
everyone knows that the stone reaches the floor first. But what happens if
you crumple the piece of paper into the shape of a ball? During the first
Moon landing, in 1969, the astronauts carried out a simple experiment by
dropping a hammer and a feather and observing that both reached the
Moons surface at the same time. The rate at which these objects accelerate
towards the surface of the Earth (or the Moon) is called the acceleration due
to gravity. On the Moon, there is no atmosphere and so no air resistance to gravity
interfere with the motion of the feather (in particular). On the Earth, The acceleration that a body
however, wind resistance is quite significant and so a feather and hammer, experiences when placed in a
when dropped, do not reach the ground at the same time. gravitational field. On Earth the
Gravitation itself is a natural phenomenon where objects, simply accepted value is 9.8 m s2,
although it changes slightly with
because they have mass, attract each other. It is one of the fundamental altitude and latitude
forces of physics that keeps the Earth and other planets in orbit around
the Sun. It keeps the Moon in orbit around the Earth and thus gives force mass
to the tides. It is involved in the formation of stars and the heating of their
The amount of matter in an object
centres to very high temperatures. as defined by the product of its
Gravity affects objects that have mass. In popular science, mass and volume and density. It is measured
weight are often confused. We talk of hopping on the scales to measure our in kilograms (kg) and is a scalar
quantity
weight in kilograms, when the kilogram is the unit that is associated with
mass, not weight. Mass and weight are two distinctly different quantities.
The mass of an object is the same regardless of the gravitational field that it
weight
experiences. Mass is a scalar quantity. A 10 kg mass on the Earth still has a
mass of 10 kg when in the gravitational field of the Moon. The product of its The actual force of gravitation
acting on an object at or near the
volume and density remains unchanged. Its weight, however, will be
surface of the Earth or other
different. Weight is a vector quantity. Its weight is a direct result of the force astronomical body. It is measured in
of the gravitational field acting upon it. To find weight, we use the equation: newtons (N) and is a vector quantity

F  mg

## where F  weight in newtons (N)

m  mass in kilograms (kg)
g  acceleration due to gravity (m s2)

ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 3 6/20/09 4:43:25 PM

Nelson Physics
4 Stage 6 HSC

Figure 1.3 Gravitation keeps the planets in orbit around the Sun (not to scale).

\\ WORKED EXAMPLE

Question 1
An object has a mass of 25 kg.
a Calculate its weight on Earth given that g  9.8 m s2.
b Calculate its weight on Mars given that the acceleration due to gravity on
Mars is 3.7 m s2.
a F  mg
 25  9.8
 245 N
The weight of the object on Earth is 245 N.
b F  mg
 25  3.7
 92.5 N
The weight of the object on Mars is 92.5 N.

## 1.2 Gravitational fields

The force of gravity is the most universal of all forces. It acts on our bodies
Determining g using a to ensure that our feet remain planted on the ground. It keeps satellites
simple pendulum, pages 25,
Practical Physics for Senior (including the Moon) in orbit around the Earth and the planets in orbit
Students, HSC around the Sun.
gravitational field A gravitational field is said to exist in any region where there is a
Exists in any region where there is a
gravitational effect, i.e. where there is force on any mass placed in that
gravitational effect. Gravitational area. Because force is a vector, gravitational field strength is also a vector.
field strength is a vector Consider the region near the surface of the Earth. The mass of the Earth
may be considered to be concentrated at its centre.
A gravitational field exists and its direction is towards the centre of the
Earth. We define the strength of the field (from Newtons Second Law) as
the gravitational force per unit mass, i.e.
F
g  __
m
The unit of g is newtons per kilogram, which is written as N kg1.
ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 4 6/20/09 4:43:30 PM

Module 1
Chapter 1 \\ Gravity 5

On a larger scale, the gravitational field for an isolated point mass would
be as shown in Figure 1.5.
Note that in each case, the lines, called lines of force, indicate the
direction of force on a mass placed at that point. The strength of the field
decreases with the square of the distance, as shown graphically in
Figure 1.6.
Earth
For the isolated mass, the magnitude of the gravitational field strength,
g, is given by: Figure 1.4 The gravitational field at the surface of the
Earth is downwards and perpendicular to the surface.
GM
g  ____
r2
where M  mass involved (e.g. mass of a planet)
r  distance from the centre of that mass m
G  a constant W
Earth
The constant G is called the universal gravitational constant. In the SI
system, the value of this constant is 6.67  1011 N m2 kg2.
This can be used to calculate the gravitational field at any distance r
from a mass; so it can be used to calculate the gravity on the surface of the
Earth.
Figure 1.5 The gravitational field for an isolated point
mass m.

\\ WORKED EXAMPLE g

Question 2 g = GM
r2
Given that the radius at a particular location on the Earth is 6365.0 km, calculate
the gravity there. Consider the mass of the Earth to be 5.974  1024 kg.

## Answer distance from

GM Earths surface centre of the
g  ___ Earth
r2
(6.67  1011)  (5.974  1024) Figure 1.6 Graph of gravitational field strength
 _________________________ against distance.
(6.365  106)2
 9.84 N kg1

The gravitational field strength at a distance from the centre of the Earth
GM
is g  ___r2
, which means that the gravitational field strength is inversely
proportional to the square of the distance from the centre of the Earth, i.e.
1
g  __
r2
.
Let us consider what happens to the gravitational field strength when
the distance from the centre of the Earth is doubled. Let the radius of the
Earth be R, then twice the distance from the centre of the Earth is 2R.
Hence:
1 becomes
g  __
r2
1
g  _____
(2R)2
1
g  ____
4R 2

## So doubling the radius has led to a reduction in gravitational field strength

to one-quarter that on the Earths surface. This means that the weight of
an object will be one-quarter of what it is at the Earths surface, even
though its mass will not have changed.
ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 5 6/20/09 4:43:31 PM

Nelson Physics
6 Stage 6 HSC

\\ WORKED EXAMPLE

Question 3
What is the gravitational field strength at a distance of 2000 km above the
Earths surface? The mass of the Earth is 6.0  1024 kg. The radius of the
Earth is 6.4  106 m. The distance from the centre of the Earth is thus
(6.4  106  2.0  106) m.

From GM
g  ___
r2
6.67  1011  6.0  1024
g  _____________________
(6.4  106  2.0  106)2
 5.7 N kg1
Note that this means that the acceleration of a body such as a satellite at this
height is 5.7 m s2.

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The physics of the gravity of \\ DID YOU KNOW?
different planets, page 6,
Practical Physics for Senior
Students, HSC Variations in gravity
Although the accepted value for gravity on the Earths surface is 9.8 N kg1,
the actual value for g will depend on both geographical location and altitude.
Minor variations in the acceleration due to gravity occur because:
the Earth is not a perfect sphere (it is attened at the poles) the value
for g at the poles is greater than at the Equator as the poles are closer
to the centre of the Earth
of variations in the thickness of the Earths crust and the minerals
found there the density of mineral deposits and positioning of tectonic
plate boundaries affects the local value for g
the spin of the Earth reduces the value of g this effect is greatest at

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the Equator and least at the poles and is due to a centrifugal effect that
reduces the value of g
of the altitude above the Earths surface: at higher altitudes, gravity is less.
The result of these effects is that the gravitational eld at the poles is
9.832 m s2, at the Equator is 9.789 m s2 and on Mount Everest is 9.77 m s2.

## Figure 1.7 Mt Everest at higher altitudes, gravity is less.

ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 6 6/20/09 4:43:32 PM

Module 1
Chapter 1 \\ Gravity 7

Problem set 1A
For the problems in this section assume:
g (on the Earths surface)  9.8 m s2
gm (gravity on the Moon)  1.6 m s2
G (the universal constant of gravitation)  6.67  1011 N m2 kg2
ME (the mass of the Earth)  6.0  1024 kg
m (the mass of the Moon)  7.34  1022 kg
r (the radius of the Moons orbit around the Earth)  3.84  108 m
rE (the radius of the Earth)  6.38  106 m
rm (the radius of the Moon)  1.74  106 m
MS (the mass of the Sun)  2.0  1030 kg
Question 1
An astronaut of mass 60 kg travels from the Earth to the Moon.
a Calculate his weight on the Earth.
b Calculate his weight on the Moon.

Question 2
Explain why mass and weight are often confused with each other.
Question 3

## a What is the weight of a 1.0 kg mass on the surface of the Earth

where the gravitational field strength is 9.8 N kg1?
b How far from the centre of the Earth is the mass when its
weight is 4.9 N?

Question 4
Gravitational potential
Find the gravitational field strength at a point whose distance from energy, kinetic energy and
conservation of energy
the Earths surface is equal to the radius of the Earth.
Question 5
In terms of G, ME and rE, find the gravitational field strength, g, at
the surface of the Earth.
Question 6

## a Calculate the gravitational field strength on the surface of the

Moon due to the Moons gravitational field.
b Calculate the acceleration due to the Moons gravity on the
surface of the Moon.
Question 7
At what distance from the Earth would a spacecraft experience zero
net gravitational force due to the opposing pulls of the Earth and the
Moon?

## 1.3 Gravitational potential potential energy

energy The energy that a body has due to
its position or configuration;
Potential energy is the energy that a body has due to its position or stored energy
configuration. Gravitational potential energy (Ep) is the energy that a
body has due to its position within a gravitational field. At the Earths gravitational potential energy (Ep)
surface, the gravitational potential energy is equal to the work done in The energy of a mass due to its
moving a mass to a distance h above the ground. From Preliminary position within a gravitational field

ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 7 6/20/09 4:43:33 PM

Nelson Physics
8 Stage 6 HSC

Physics, you will recall that work is the product of force and distance, so
mathematically:
W  Fs
 (mg)  h
 mgh
where m  mass (kg)
g  force of gravity (m s2)
h  distance above Earths surface (m)
So in this case, Ep  mgh.
In this unit we are dealing with the gravitational potential energy
associated with systems of large masses, where the distances between the
masses are also very large. When dealing with small masses near the surface
of the Earth, it is satisfactory to think of objects at the Earths surface as
having Ep  0. For larger distances, we need a different approach.
Work is done in moving an object away from the source of a gravitational
field. The further the object is from the source of the field, the less work has
to be done to it to move it away from the field as the gravitational field itself
becomes less strong. To describe a universal relationship, gravitational
potential energy is defined as being zero at a distance of infinity from the
gravitational source. As a consequence of this, work is always done to move
an object against the field so that it gains potential energy, Ep. So the
potential energy at point x is less than at point infinity because work has to
Ep be done to move it to point infinity (where Ep  0). This means that Ep at
r, distance from point x is negative!
Earths centre Mathematically, we find that gravitational potential energy is as
r0
follows:
Ep  0
Gm1 m2
Ep   _______
r
G M
E  m E
r where Ep  gravitational potential energy (J)
Figure 1.8 Gravitational potential energy in the m1  mass of planet (kg)
Earths field. Note that in this case the mass of the m2  mass of object (kg)
planet (Earth)  ME. r  distance separating objects (m)

\\ WORKED EXAMPLE

Question 4
Calculate the energy required to move a satellite of mass 3500 kg from the
Earths surface to a position beyond the Earths gravitational field (mass of the
Earth  6.0  1024 kg, radius of Earth  6.4  106 m).

First, find the gravitational energy of the satellite on the Earths surface.
Gm1 m2
Ep   ______
r
6.67  1011  6.0  1024  3500
  ____________________________
6.4  106
 2.2  1011 J
Since the gravitational energy at a point outside the Earths gravitational field is
zero, the energy needed to go from the Earths surface to beyond that point
(infinity) is 2.2  1011 J.

ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 8 6/20/09 4:43:33 PM

Module 1
Chapter 1 \\ Gravity 9

Summary of gravity
Mass is the amount of matter of which an object is composed and is a scalar quantity. It is
the product of density and volume and is measured in kilograms (kg).
Weight is the force on an object due to a gravitational field. It is a vector quantity.
The acceleration due to gravity at the Earths surface is taken to be 9.8 m s2.
Weight is found by the formula F  mg.
Weight is measured in newtons (N).
The universal law of gravitation for an isolated mass can be used to find its gravitational
GM
field: g  ___
r2
.
The universal gravitational constant, G, is 6.67  1011 N m2 kg2.
Gravitational potential energy is the energy of a mass due to its position within a
gravitational field.
The gravitation potential energy of a mass at a particular point within a gravitational field is
equivalent to the work done in moving the mass from that point to a point of infinite
Gm1 m2
distance: Ep   _____
r .

Review questions
For the questions in this section assume:
g (on the Earths surface)  9.8 m s2
gm (gravity on the Moon)  1.6 m s2
gM (gravity on Mars)  3.7 m s2
G (the universal constant of gravitation)  6.67  1011 N m2 kg2
ME (the mass of the Earth)  6.0  1024 kg
m (the mass of the Moon)  7.34  1022 kg
r (the radius of the Moons orbit around the Earth)  3.84  108 m
rE (the radius of the Earth)  6.38  106 m
rm (the radius of the Moon)  1.74  106 m
MS (the mass of the Sun)  2.0  1030 kg
Question 1
Calculate the weight of a 625 kg lunar module on the Moon.
Question 2
A vehicle has a weight of 2127.5 N on Mars.
a Calculate its mass.
b Explain why its mass is the same both on Earth and on Mars.
Question 3
The gravitational field at the Earths surface has an average accepted value of
9.8 m s2 or N kg1. Show that these two sets of units are equivalent.
Question 4
The acceleration due to gravity on Earth is 9.8 m s2 and on Mercury is 3.8 m s2. If
a person has a weight of 450 N on Earth, what would be the persons weight on the
surface of Mercury?
Question 5
The weight of an astronaut on the Moon is one-sixth of his weight on Earth. Calculate
the acceleration due to gravity on the Moon.

ISBN 9780170177931

## 01 PHYSICS STAGE 6 HSC SB TXT.indd 9 6/20/09 4:43:34 PM

Nelson Physics
10 Stage 6 HSC

Question 6
a Calculate the gravitational field on Venus, given that it has a mass of 4.9  1024 kg
and a radius of 6052 km.
b Find the weight of an 80 kg person on the surface of Venus.
Question 7
A satellite is in orbit at a distance of 350 km above the Earths surface. Calculate the
gravitational field strength at this distance.
Question 8
The gravitational field strength experienced by a satellite orbiting Earth is 4.5 N kg1.
Calculate how high above the Earths surface the satellite is in orbit.
Question 9
A satellite of mass 200 kg is launched into a uniform circular orbit of radius 6.5  106 m
around the Earth.
a Calculate the magnitude of the gravitational potential energy, Ep, of the satellite.
b From this circular orbit, the satellite can escape the Earths gravitational field when
its kinetic energy is equal to the magnitude of the gravitational potential energy.
Use this relationship to calculate the escape velocity of the satellite.
Question 10
Determine the energy required to move a rocket of mass 25 000 kg from the Earths
surface to a position beyond the Earths gravitational field.
Question 11
Calculate the amount of work done in moving a mass of 3000 kg from the surface of
the Earth to a height 32 km above the Earths surface.
Question 12
A satellite is gradually increasing the size of its orbit around the Earth. Explain whether
this is an increase or decrease in potential energy.
Question 13
To place a satellite of mass 10 000 kg in orbit around the Earth, 5.73  1011 J of
work is done. Calculate how far from the Earths surface the satellite is placed in its
orbital path.

ISBN 9780170177931