# Physics Mechanics Lecture 30 Gravitational Energy

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1 Physics Mechanics Lecture 30 Gravitational Energy

2 Gravitational Potential Energy Gravitational potential energy of an object of mass m a distance r from the Earth s center:

3 Gravitational Potential Energy Very close to the Earth s surface, the gravitational potential increases linearly with altitude: Gravitational potential energy, just like all other forms of energy, is a scalar. It therefore has no components; just a sign.

4 Energy Conservation Total mechanical energy of an object of mass m a distance r from the center of the Earth is: This confirms what we already know as an object approaches the Earth, it moves faster and faster.

5 Energy Conservation An object falling into the Earth s gravity well, (e.g., a comet), initially with zero mechanical energy.

6 Example: Escape Speed A 1000 kg rocket is fired straight away from the surface of the Earth. What speed does it need to escape from the gravitational pull of the Earth and never return? (Assume a non-rotating Earth.) This is also the speed at which (in the absence of atmosphere) a meteor, falling from very far away, would strike the surface of the Earth. It is also called escape velocity.

7 Example: Crashing into the Sun Suppose the Earth were suddenly to halt its motion in orbiting the Sun. The gravitational force would pull it directly into the Sun. What would be its speed as it crashed?

8 Example: The Height of a Projectile A projectile is fired straight up from the Earth s South Pole with an initial speed v i = 8.0 km/s. Find the maximum height it reaches, neglecting air drag.

9 Satellite Orbits and Energies The tangential velocity v needed for a circular orbit depends on the gravitational potential energy U g of the satellite at the radius of the orbit. The needed tangential velocity v is independent of the mass m of the satellite (provided m<<m). Notice that to make v larger, you need to go deeper into the gravity well, i.e., to a lower orbit where U g is larger and r is smaller.

10 Orbital Energetics The equation K = ½U g is called The Virial Theorem. In effect, it says that for a planet in orbit around the Sun, if you turned its velocity by 90 o, so that it pointed straight out of the Solar System, you would have only half the kinetic energy needed to escape the Sun s gravity well.

11 Example: The Total Energy of a Satellite Show that the total energy of a satellite in a circular orbit around the Earth is half of its gravitational potential energy. E Although derived for this particular case, this is a general result, and is called the Virial Theorem. The factor of ½ is a consequence of the inverse square law.

12 Example: A Gravity Map of the Earth Twin satellites launched March 2002 are making detailed measurements of the Earth s gravitational field. They are in identical orbits, with one satellite in front of the other by 220 km. The distance between the satellites is continuously monitored with micrometer accuracy using onboard microwave telemetry equipment. How does the distance between the satellites change as the satellites approach a region of increased mass? As the satellites approach a region of increased mass, they are pulled forward by it, but the leading satellite experiences a greater force that the trailing satellite. Therefore, the distance between them increases, providing an indication of a mass concentration.

13 g for a Solid Sphere Gravitational field of a solid uniform sphere

14 Tides Usually we can treat planets, moons, and stars as though they were point objects, but in fact they are not. When two large objects exert gravitational forces on each other, the force on the near side is larger than the force on the far side, because the near side is closer to the other object. This difference in gravitational force across an object due to its size is called a tidal force.

15 Tides Tidal forces can result in orbital locking, where the moon always has the same face towards the planet as does Earth s Moon. If a moon gets too close to a large planet, the tidal forces can be strong enough to tear the moon apart. This occurs inside the Roche limit; closer to the planet we have rings, not moons.

16 Tides This figure illustrates a general tidal force on the left, and the result of lunar tidal forces on the Earth on the right.

17 Tides Which has a larger effect on the Earth s ocean tides, the Sun or the Moon? It turns out that there are two factors that control the tidal effect of a given celestial object: (1) The third power of the angular size of the object in the sky, and (2) The mass density of the object. By a remarkable celestial accident, the Sun and Moon have almost exactly the same size in the sky (so solar eclipses are possible), but the Moon has 3 times the mass density of the Sun. Therefore, the Moon s tidal effect on Earth s oceans is 3 times that of the Sun.

18 Black Holes Black holes: If an object is sufficiently massive and sufficiently small, the escape speed will equal or exceed the speed of light, so that light itself will not be able to escape the surface. This is a black hole. It is believed that there is a large black hole (thousands of solar masses) at the center of our galaxy. It would have a radius of about 1.33 x m, about AU.

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