Surface Gravity LESSON

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1 14 LESSON Surface Gravity INTRODUCTION How much do you weigh? How massive are you? Suppose you could travel to other planets. What would happen to your weight and mass? In this lesson you will explore these questions. You will simulate what it is like to pick up objects on different planets. Then, using a spring scale, you will relate what you observe about the weights of objects to the force called gravity. The lesson ends as you continue the series of Mission readers to learn more about the Galileo mission to Jupiter. On the Moon, this astronaut weighs one-sixth of his weight on Earth. This is because the Moon s surface gravity is not as strong as Earth s. NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION/JOHNSON SPACE CENTER OBJECTIVES FOR THIS LESSON Use a model to compare the weight of a can of soda on different planets. Analyze the relationship between an object s weight on each planet and the planet s mass and diameter. Measure the weight of objects that have different masses. Describe how mass and weight (force of gravity) are related. Summarize and organize information about Jupiter and compare Jupiter to other planets. 200 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

2 Getting Started What do you know about gravity as a characteristic of a planet s surface? Record your ideas in your science notebook. Share what you have written with the class and discuss your ideas about the following questions: What is gravity? How are gravity and weight related? How can you measure gravity? MATERIALS For you 1 copy of Student Sheet 14.1: How Much Would a Can of Soda Weigh? 1 working copy of Student Sheet 10.1c: Planetary Chart For your group to share 9 prepared cans 1 set of Planet Data Cards For your group 1 spring scale 1 plastic cylinder 25 large steel washers STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE 201

3 Inquiry 14.1 Analyzing Weight on Each Planet PROCEDURE 1. Examine the prepared cans at your assigned station. Every can represents the same full can of soda but on different planets. Pick up each can and observe how heavy that can is on each planet (see Figure 14.1). On which planet does the can weigh the least? On which planet does the can weigh the most? Why do you think this is? Discuss your ideas with your group Rank the weight of each can on Student Sheet 14.1 by recording a 1 next to the name of the planet with the lightest can. Increase the numbers until you get to the heaviest can. If any cans seem to weigh the same, use the same number to rank them. Turn over the following three Planet Data Cards: the planet you ranked 1 (the lightest can); the planet you ranked with the highest number (the heaviest can); and the planet with a number somewhere in between. Examine the data printed on the back of these three cards. What characteristics about each planet could explain why the weight of the can is different on each planet? Discuss your ideas with your group. Record your ideas below Table 1 on Student Sheet COURTESY OF CAROL O DONNELL/ NSRC Figure 14.1 Observe how heavy the can is on each planet. On which planet does the can weigh the most? On which planet does it weigh the least? 202 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

7 Mass Weight: & What s the Difference? Many people think that there is no difference between the terms weight and mass. But there is! Mass is related to the amount of matter (or stuff ) in an object, regardless of how much space the object takes up. As long as you do not add or take away any matter from an object, its mass stays the same, even at different locations. If you take an object to the Moon or Mars, it will have the same mass that it had on Earth. But what about its weight? Would an object weigh the same on the Moon or Mars as it does on Earth? As you found out in your investigation, the answer is no. The weight of an object changes from planet to planet. Weight even changes from one place on a planet (such as a mountaintop, where you might weigh less) to another (such as the bottom of a deep valley, where you might weigh more). Measuring Mass and Weight Weight is a measure of the force of gravity on an object. (A force is a push or pull on or by an object.) We use a spring scale to measure the strength of the gravitational pull on the mass of an object. Objects with the same mass have the same weight. An object with more mass has a stronger gravitational force pulling on it than an object with less mass. The spring scale is pulled down farther, showing that the object weighs more. In the metric system, weight is measured in newtons. Mass is measured in kilograms and grams in the metric system. To find the mass of an object, we use a balance. When equal amounts of matter are placed on opposite sides of a beam balance, for example, the pull of gravity is the same on both sides, and the beam balances. If the mass of an object were measured with a balance on 206 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

8 Weight is measured using a spring scale. Mass is measured using a balance. Earth, and then with the same balance on the Moon, the results would be identical. The amount of stuff in the object hasn t changed. Mass and Weight on the Nine Planets An object with mass attracts any other object with mass. The strength of that attraction depends on the mass of each object and their distance from each other. This gravitational pull is very small between objects of ordinary size and therefore is hard to measure. The pull between an object with a large amount of mass, such as Earth, and another object, such as a person on the planet s surface, can easily be measured. Weight on a planet s surface is a measure of the pull of gravity between an object and the planet on which it is located. This force of gravity on an object on a planet s surface depends on the object s mass and the mass of the planet. If the (continued) STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE 207

9 The farther the object is from the center of the planet, the weaker the pull between the planet and the object. This means that your weight on Saturn would be about the same as your weight on Venus, even though Saturn is more massive than Venus. 208 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

10 What Would You Weigh on Jupiter? Jupiter has 318 times more mass than Earth, so you might assume that you would weigh 318 times more on Jupiter than you weigh on Earth. This would be true if Jupiter were the same size as Earth, but the diameter of Jupiter is more than 10 times the diameter of Earth. This means that if you stood on Jupiter, you would actually be farther from the planet s center than you would be if you stood on Earth. This reduces Jupiter s gravitational pull on you to only about 2.36 times (and not 318 times) your weight on Earth. The number 2.36 is referred to as Jupiter s gravity factor. The gravity factor is the ratio of each planet s gravity to that on Earth. Earth s gravity factor is 1 and Jupiter s gravity factor is By multiplying your Earth weight by a planet s gravity factor, you can determine your weight on that planet. Use the table to find out how much you would weigh on each of the nine planets. Table 1 Mass, Radius, and Surface Gravity of Each Planet Surface Gravity Mass Radius Factor Planet (10 22 kg) (km) (Earth = 1) Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter 189,900 71, Saturn 56,850 60, Uranus , Neptune 10,240 24, Pluto mass of that object is doubled, gravity pulls on it twice as hard. If the mass of the planet is doubled, gravity pulls on the object twice as hard. The force of gravity also depends on the distance of an object from the center of the planet to its surface. This distance is called the radius of the planet. The farther an object is from the planet s center, the weaker the pull between the planet and the object. This force gets weaker quite rapidly, but there is a pattern to it. If you double the radius of the planet, the weight of the object will be one-fourth as much. If you triple the radius of the planet, the weight will be only one-ninth as much. The force of gravity drops off with the square of the distance between the center of the planet and the object. Each planet in our solar system has a different mass and a different size. This means that the weight of the same object on the surface of each planet will be different. For example, you would weigh less on the Moon than you do on Earth because although the Moon is smaller than Earth, it also has less mass than Earth and Earth s mass wins out. This means that the Moon exerts less gravitational force at its surface than Earth. Any given object will have the same mass on Earth and on the Moon, but that object s weight on the Moon will be only about 16 percent (one-sixth) of the weight as measured on Earth. STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE 209

11 Mission: Jupiter In the early 1600s, astronomer Galileo Galilei looked at cloud-covered Jupiter through one of the world s first telescopes. What he saw amazed everyone four moons! Telescopes improved over the years and other moons of Jupiter were found. More than 300 years after Galileo s discovery, spacecraft flew close enough to Jupiter to take detailed pictures. Pioneer 10 flew by Jupiter first, in Pioneer 11 followed a year later. Voyager 1 and 2, en route to the outer planets, sped past Jupiter in These flyby missions added to our knowledge, but they also left us with many questions. What are Jupiter s rings made of? How fast do the winds on Jupiter blow? And what is beneath those clouds? Many scientists believed that only an orbiter could answer such questions, because an orbiter can observe a planet for a long time. The Viking orbiter had revealed much about Mars. And the Pioneer orbiter answered many questions about Venus. But how could an orbiter see beneath Jupiter s clouds? A probe would have to do that! Plans got underway to send a spacecraft with an orbiter and a probe to Jupiter. The mission would be named after the Italian scientist who first spotted Jupiter s four large moons Galileo. The Galileo spacecraft was launched in Six years later, as it approached Jupiter, the probe and orbiter separated. In December 1995, the probe finally plunged into Jupiter s clouds. NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA Jupiter 210 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

12 The orbiter, meanwhile, was starting on its path around the largest planet in the solar system. Galileo Probe Findings Descending through Jupiter s atmosphere, frictional forces on the surface of the probe s heat shield raised the heat shield s surface temperatures to levels twice as hot as those of the Sun s surface! Still, it sent data for nearly 58 minutes before the heat and pressure destroyed it. What can a space probe discover in less than an hour? As it turns out lots! To the surprise of scientists, the probe showed there were no clouds in the lower part of Jupiter s atmosphere. The air below the clouds also was much drier than scientists expected. Scientists think the probe may have descended into a part of Jupiter s atmosphere that was unusually dry. Yet the wind speed 540 kilometers an hour was the same both in the clouds and below them. These winds puzzled scientists. On Earth, the Sun s heat helps make winds. But Jupiter receives only about 1 25 as much sunlight as Earth. So what s the source of Jupiter s winds? Some scientists believe they are powered by heat escaping from deep inside the planet. The probe journeyed 600 kilometers into Jupiter s atmosphere. As expected, it hit no solid object or surface along the way. Jupiter is, after all, a gaseous giant. Its solid surface lies below tens of thousands of kilometers of atmosphere. NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY The Galileo probe s descent through Jupiter s atmosphere STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE 211

13 The ring system of Jupiter was imaged by the Galileo spacecraft on November 9, Galileo Orbiter Findings In the late 1970s, the Voyager spacecraft discovered two, possibly three, rings around Jupiter. In 1995, the Galileo orbiter confirmed the presence of a third thin ring but also found a fourth ring inside it! According to the data transmitted by Galileo, all the rings consist of small grains of dust. It seems that meteoroid impacts blasted the grains off the surface of the four innermost moons. Galileo also revealed that Jupiter is home to many more huge storms than once thought. The largest is the Great Red Spot. This raging storm is three times the size of Earth! While Jupiter has more storms than expected, it has less lightning than scientists predicted. Lightning occurs on Jupiter only about onetenth as often as on Earth. On our planet, there is an average of about 100 lightning flashes every second. While orbiting Jupiter, Galileo flew near several of Jupiter s moons. Scientists knew that Io, the innermost of Jupiter s four major moons, has active volcanoes. The Voyager spacecraft discovered several of them in But the Galileo orbiter showed that hundreds of volcanoes cover Io. Many spew lava from deep below the moon s surface. 212 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

14 NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY The Great Red Spot on Jupiter STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE 213

15 NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION/JET PROPULSION LABORATORY Jupiter s moon Europa seems to have an ocean beneath its cracked icy surface. In this ocean, gigantic blocks of ice the size of cities appear to have broken off and drifted apart. Callisto, the outermost of Jupiter s four major moons, also may have an ocean below its cratered surface. Ganymede is the largest moon in the entire solar system. The data transmitted by the Galileo orbiter show that it is the only moon known to have a magnetic field. The orbiter is scheduled to end its mission with a dive into Jupiter s deadly atmosphere a dramatic ending for one mindexpanding trip! Jupiter s four largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto (top to bottom). Jupiter s Great Red Spot is shown in the background. 214 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE

16 PLANETARY FACTS: Jupiter: Quick Facts Jupiter Diameter 142,980 km Average temperature 108 C Average distance from the Sun 778,400,000 km Length of sidereal day 9.92 hours Mass 189, kg Length of year Earth years Surface gravity (Earth = 1) 2.36 Number of observed moons 39* Relative size Ring system Metallic hydrogen inner mantle Rock core Liquid hydrogen and helium outer mantle Jupiter atmosphere Methane, ammonia, and water (traces) Helium (10%) Hydrogen (89%) Did You Know? Jupiter (like the other gaseous planets) has a ring system. Although Jupiter s ring system is essentially transparent, the ring particles are visible when there is light behind them. Jupiter s swirling cloud patterns are caused by its rapid rotation. Earth Jupiter *As of 2002 STC/MS E ARTH IN S PACE 215

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