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Concept# Gravitational acceleration

Summary

In physics, gravitational acceleration is the acceleration of an object in free fall within a vacuum (and thus without experiencing drag). This is the steady gain in speed caused exclusively by the force of gravitational attraction. All bodies accelerate in vacuum at the same rate, regardless of the masses or compositions of the bodies; the measurement and analysis of these rates is known as gravimetry.
At a fixed point on the surface, the magnitude of Earth's gravity results from combined effect of gravitation and the centrifugal force from Earth's rotation. At different points on Earth's surface, the free fall acceleration ranges from , depending on altitude, latitude, and longitude. A conventional standard value is defined exactly as . Locations of significant variation from this value are known as gravity anomalies. This does not take into account other effects, such as buoyancy or drag.
Newton's law of universal gravitation states that there is a gravitational force between any two masses that is equal in magnitude for each mass, and is aligned to draw the two masses toward each other. The formula is:
where and are any two masses, is the gravitational constant, and is the distance between the two point-like masses.
Using the integral form of Gauss's Law, this formula can be extended to any pair of objects of which one is far more massive than the other — like a planet relative to any man-scale artifact. The distances between planets and between the planets and the Sun are (by many orders of magnitude) larger than the sizes of the sun and the planets. In consequence both the sun and the planets can be considered as point masses and the same formula applied to planetary motions. (As planets and natural satellites form pairs of comparable mass, the distance 'r' is measured from the common centers of mass of each pair rather than the direct total distance between planet centers.

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