Universal Gravitation

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From Forces to Fields
For the rest of the course, focus on the revolutionary view of gravitation launched by Albert Einstein. Review new ideas about fields that allowed physics to extend beyond Newtonian mechanics. Then see how Einstein modified Newton's laws and created the special theory of relativity.
Planets Circling Two Stars
See how data from the Kepler spacecraft confirms a scenario straight out of the movie Star Wars: a planet with two suns. Investigate the tricky orbital mechanics of these systems. A double star also complicates the heating and cooling cycle on a planet. However, the view is spectacular!
Part III: Gravity - A Broadened View
Part of the Series: Physics of Spaceflight Series
Concepts Covered:
  • Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation
  • Gravitational Acceleration
  • Newton's Laws of Motion
  • Fluid Mechanics
This program centers on presenting a broadened perspective of gravity, with emphasis given to observing its influence in different environments. Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is used to determine the magnitude of the…
Revolution in the Heavens
Drawing on ideas and observations of Nicolaus Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler achieved a great insight about gravity by discovering three laws of planetary motion, relating to the mathematics of orbits. The cause of planetary motion, he determined, must lie in the sun.
Compact Multiplanet Systems
Dig deeper into the treasure trove of data from the Kepler mission, which discovered hundreds of compact multiplanet systems, with planets much more closely packed than in our solar system. Explore the dynamics of these groupings, which have planets interacting strongly through mutual gravitation.
Aeronautical Technology Takes Off
Part of the Series: The Amazing World of Aviation
The decades following the First World War saw aircraft designers pushing the boundaries of aeronautical technology, moving the industry forward at a rapid pace. With new commercial markets opening up, it was the visionaries who held the key to success. Each invention promising a future filled with endless possibilities. Airplane…
Observing the Moon and the Sun
Episode 4 of Our Night Sky Series
Charting the motions and changes of the sun and moon may be humankind's oldest astronomical activity. Discover how both objects offer rich opportunities for study. Also learn the precautions to take when observing the sun, which is the only star that can be seen up close and in detail.
Escape Velocity, Energy, and Rotation
Begin the first of several episodes that dig deeper into Newton's laws than Newton himself was able to go. In this episode, apply the key concepts of energy and angular momentum to study how gravity affects motion. As an example, use simple algebra to calculate the escape velocity from Earth.
Stars in Their Courses—Orbital Mechanics
Newton was the first to realize that objects could, in theory, be sent into orbit around Earth. Explore how this works in practice, using the ideas of energy and angular momentum to study how satellites, moons, planets, and stars move through space.
Our Nearest Exoplanetary Neighbors
Pinpoint the location of the nearest exoplanetary systems to Earth. First, get the big picture on the layout of our Milky Way galaxy, its size, and the Sun's position. Also learn why the Kepler spacecraft focused on exoplanets much more distant than those targeted by the Doppler technique.
The Art of Experiment
Learn how distances in the solar system were first determined. Then chart Henry Cavendish's historic experiment that found the value of Newton's gravitational constant. Cavendish's work allows almost everything in the universe to be weighed. Then see a confirmation of the equivalence principle, which says that gravitational and inertial mass…
The Spring Sky
Episode 10 of Our Night Sky Series
The spring sky opens the view into intergalactic space perpendicular to the plane of the Milky Way. Among the objects visible are the immensely rich galaxy clusters in Virgo and Coma Berenices, which are many millions of light-years distant and can be seen with small and moderate telescopes.