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Gravitational Methods

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Name _ Gravitational Lab
Go http://phet.colorado.edu/simulations/sims.php?sim=My_Solar_System and click on Run Now.

I After the simulation loads click Start.

Describe what you see in this simple sun-planet system. Specifically, what happens to the central object (the Sun)? Answer: The sun moves too. Can you explain why the central object moves?
Answer: The Sun is pulled by the gravitational forces between itself and the planet. HINT: Is gravitational attraction only the sun pulling on the planet? Does the planet orbit in a perfect circle? Is the sun at the center?
Answer: The planet orbits in an elliptical. No, the Sun is in focus off to the side.

II Click Stop and then select 3 bodies. Then Start

Sketch a complete cycle (orbit) Sketch:

Watch the ‘funny’ object closely What is it doing? Describe and explain.
Answer: The moon orbits the planet that is also orbiting the sun.
Could this be the Earth/Moon/Sun system? (Try un-checking Show Traces.)
Answer: Yes, but taking a look at the relative masses, this makes a significant difference. Is there anything you are uncomfortable with in the simulation? Explain.
Answer: The planet does not move back and forth in response to its moon. Can you explain the difference in the moon’s path when it is on the right side of the Sun compared to on the left side? (Turn Traces back on.)
Answer: The end points are sharper on the left and the end points are more curved on the right side because the speed of the planet increases when it is closer to the Sun, from Kelper’s 2nd Law.

III Click Stop and then select 4 bodies. Then Start

Describe what is happening to the inner planet, why.
Answer: The inner planet’s orbit changes because it is disturbed by the outer planet’s gravitational pull.

IV Click Stop…...

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