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Newtons Question: If the force of gravity is being exerted on objects on Earth, what is the origin of that force?

Newtons realization was that this force must come from the Earth. He further realized that this force must be what keeps the Moon in its orbit.

The gravitational force on you is half of a Newtons 3rd Law pair: Earth exerts a downward force on you, & you exert an upward force on Earth. When there is such a large difference in the 2 masses, the reaction force (force you exert on the Earth) is undetectable, but for 2 objects with masses closer in size to each other, it can be significant.

The gravitational force one body exerts on a 2nd body , is directed toward the first body, and is equal and opposite to the force exerted by the second body on the first

Must be true from Newtons 3rd Law

Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the particles and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. F12 = -F21 [(m1m2)/r2] Direction of this force: Along the line joining the 2 masses

G = the Universal Gravitational constant Measurements in SI Units:

The force given above is strictly valid only for:

Very small masses m1 & m2 (point asses)

Uniform spheres For other objects: Need integral calculus!

The Universal Law of Gravitation is an example of an inverse square law

The magnitude of the force varies as the inverse

square of the separation of the particles

The law can also be expressed in vector form

The negative sign means its an attractive force
Arent we glad its not repulsive?


F12 Force exerted by particle 1 on particle 2 F21 Force exerted by particle 2 on particle 1 F21 = - F12
This tells us that the forces form a Newtons 3rd Law action-reaction pair, as expected. The negative sign in the above vector equation tells us that particle 2 is attracted toward particle 1

More Comments

Gravity is a field force that always exists between 2 masses, regardless of the medium between them.

The gravitational force decreases rapidly as the distance between the 2 masses increases

This is an obvious consequence of the inverse square law

A spacecraft at an altitude of twice the Earth radius

Earth Radius: rE = 6320 km Earth Mass: ME = 5.98 1024 kg FG = G(mME/r2) Mass of the Space craft m r = rE At surface FG = weight or At or mg = G[mME/(rE)2] r = 2rE FG = G[mME/(2rE)2] ()mg = 4900 N

Find the net force on the Moon due to the gravitational attraction of both the Earth & the Sun, assuming they are at right angles to each other.

ME = MM = MS = rME = rMS = F =

5.99 1024kg 7.35 1022kg 1.99 1030 kg 3.85 108 m 1.5 1011 m FME + FMS

= FME + FMS (vector sum)

FME = G [(MMME)/ (rME)2] FMS F = 1.99 1020 N = G [(MMMS)/(rMS)2] = 4.34 1020 N = [ (FME)2 + (FMS)2]

= 4.77 1020 N tan() = 1.99/4.34 = 24.6

Gravity Near Earths Surface

Gravitational Acceleration g and Gravitational Constant G

G vs. g

Obviously, its very important to distinguish between G and g They are obviously very different physical quantities G The Universal Gravitational Constant
It is the same everywhere in the Universe

G = 6.673 10-11 Nm2/kg2 Always same on every location g The Acceleration due to Gravity g = 9.80 m/s2 (approx) on Earths surface g varies with location

g in terms of G
Consider an object on Earths surface:
mE = mass of the Earth rE = radius of the Earth m = mass of object Let us the Earth is a uniform, perfect sphere. The weight of m: FG = mg The Gravitational force on m:


FG = G[(mmE)/(rE)2]
Setting these equal gives:

All quantities on the right are measured!

g = 9.8 m/s2

Using the same process, we can Weigh


(Determine its mass).

On the surface of the Earth, equate the usual weight of mass m to the Newton Gravitation Law form for the gravitational force:


Knowing g = 9.8 m/s2 & the radius of the Earth rE, the mass of the Earth can be calculated:

All quantities on the right are measured!

Acceleration due to gravity at a distance r from Earths center. Write gravitational force as: FG = G[(mME)/r2] mg
(effective weight)


g the effective acceleration

due to gravity.

SO :

g = G (ME)/r2

If an object is some distance h above the Earths surface, r becomes RE + h. Again, set the gravitational force equal to mg : G[(m ME)/r2] mg This gives: GME g= 2 ( RE + h )


This shows that g decreases with increasing altitude As r , the weight of the object approaches zero

Altitude Dependence of g