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PHY134 Introductory Astronomy Gravity and Orbits 1

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Thinking about Orbits Why doesn’t the Moon fall on Earth? It does! Moon is constantly accelerating towards Earth. Orbiting is falling without ever hitting the ground 2

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Even More Generally Newton’s law is Universal. Apply to any two objects orbiting under mutual gravity. Find elliptical orbit about center of mass with 3

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Example: Low-Earth Orbit ISS orbits at an altitude so has orbital radius Period given by 4

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Working with Newton When I am near Earth, every bit of Earth exerts a bit of attractive force, directed towards it. To get total, add them up. Newton shows that for any round shell the total force it exerts is: Adding it all up, outside Earth we can compute force by considering entire mass located at center 5

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Gravity on Earth Write this as Average of latitude-dependent Gravitational field determines acceleration for any freely falling object Farther from Earth force decreases 6

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Gravity Here and There As I get further from Earth force decreases 7 Newton: 5 1.5 -4 -2

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Potential Energy We said potential energy was. This true if force constant so valid near surface. Since force decreases, height gain costs less energy at large distance. Find 8

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Energy in Orbit At radius potential energy Speed so kinetic energy Total energy Negative energy orbits are bound, closed Positive energy orbits unbound 9

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The Principle of Equivalence Astronaut is weightless because gravity is weaker in space? No! h=400km so Astronaut is in free fall 10 In free fall there is no gravity

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Leftovers Earth is in free fall under gravity of Sun, so Sun’s gravity has no effect on Earth! Almost none. There are remnants of gravity even in freefall: tidal forces These are due to the fact that gravitational acceleration is different at different points. So not all points of an extended object can possibly be simultaneously in free-fall Difference in free-fall acceleration (from center of Earth) acts as a tidal “force” 11

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How Strong is this Force? 13

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What about the Moon? 14

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The Tides Moon deforms water so bulge faces Moon. As Earth rotates, bulge moves around Earth so tides repeat every 24h 48m Earth’s rotation drags bulge East so lags Moon by about 12m Sun exerts tidal force towards Sun about ½ as strong. At full/new Moon act together creating intense spring tides. At quarter Moon counteract to create weak neap tides 15

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Even More Tides When Moon formed – molten and closer - Earth’s tidal forces deformed it so it froze with permanent bulge. Tidal forces keep this bulge aligned with direction to Earth: tidal locking is why we always see same side of the Moon Since tidal bulge on Earth is dragged East of Moon, tidal force of Moon tries to align it. This in fact slows Earth’s rotation, transferring angular momentum to the Moon which thus recedes into higher orbit (G. Darwin, 1898) 16

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What Now, Aristotle? Applying universal laws leads to unified understanding of many phenomena! In space, everything is in free-fall. Trajectories are Keplerian orbits. Internal structure controlled by tidal forces is powerful. Learn more about matter and forces 17

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