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written by Tom Henderson
This resource features well-organized text explanations alongside algebraic equations and animations to help users form a better understanding of gravitational interactions.  Multiple short problems and tables are employed to illustrate the universal nature of gravitational attraction.   This item is part of Physics Classroom, a larger collection of tutorials for beginning high school physics students.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Gravity
- Newton's Second Law
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Problem/Problem Set
= Tutorial
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- Learners
- Educators
- text/html
- image/gif
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© 1996 The Physics Classroom
Law of Universal Gravitation, Newton's Second Law, Universal gravitation, gravity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 22, 2007 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
March 20, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 12, 2004
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Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Use mathematical representations of Newton's Law of Gravitation and Coulomb's Law to describe and predict the gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects. (HS-PS2-4)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • Newton's law of universal gravitation and Coulomb's law provide the mathematical models to describe and predict the effects of gravitational and electrostatic forces between distant objects. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4G. Forces of Nature
  • 9-12: 4G/H1. Gravitational force is an attraction between masses. The strength of the force is proportional to the masses and weakens rapidly with increasing distance between them.

10. Historical Perspectives

10B. Uniting the Heavens and Earth
  • 9-12: 10B/H1. Isaac Newton, building on earlier descriptions of motion by Galileo, Kepler, and others, created a unified view of force and motion in which motion everywhere in the universe can be explained by the same few rules. Newton's system was based on the concepts of mass, force, and acceleration; his three laws of motion relating them; and a physical law stating that the force of gravity between any two objects in the universe depends only upon their masses and the distance between them.
  • 9-12: 10B/H2. Newton's mathematical analysis of gravitational force and motion showed that planetary orbits had to be the very ellipses that Kepler had proposed two generations earlier.

11. Common Themes

11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
MP.7 Look for and make use of structure.

High School — Algebra (9-12)

Seeing Structure in Expressions (9-12)
  • A-SSE.1.b Interpret complicated expressions by viewing one or more of their parts as a single entity.
  • A-SSE.2 Use the structure of an expression to identify ways to rewrite it.
Creating Equations? (9-12)
  • A-CED.4 Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations.

High School — Functions (9-12)

Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models? (9-12)
  • F-LE.5 Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
  • RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11—CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

NSES Content Standards

Con.B: Physical Science
  • 9-12: Motions & Forces
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Record Link
AIP Format
T. Henderson, (1996), WWW Document, (
T. Henderson, Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, (1996), <>.
APA Format
Henderson, T. (2004, December 12). Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from
Chicago Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. December 12, 2004. (accessed 17 August 2017).
MLA Format
Henderson, Tom. Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. 1996. 12 Dec. 2004. 17 Aug. 2017 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Tom Henderson", Title = {Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {17 August 2017}, Month = {December 12, 2004}, Year = {1996} }
Refer Export Format

%A Tom Henderson
%T Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation
%D December 12, 2004
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Henderson, Tom
%D December 12, 2004
%T Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation
%V 2017
%N 17 August 2017
%8 December 12, 2004
%9 text/html

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Physics Classroom: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation:

Has Student Extra The Physics Classroom Calculator Pad: Circular Motion and Gravitation

Improve your problem-solving skills with problems, answers and solutions from The Calculator Pad.

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Has Teaching Guide Problem-Based Learning: Galilei 27 Orbiting Iris 2 (Part 1)

This problem-based learning unit targets concepts of universal gravitation and satellite motion.

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Has Student Extra Flickr Physics

Visit The Physics Classroom's Flickr Galleries and enjoy a visual tour of the topic of gravitation.

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Has Student Extra Shockwave Studios

Need to see it? Try the Gravitation activity from the Shockwave Studios.

relation by Tom Henderson
Has Teaching Guide Shockwave Studios

Gravitation from the Shockwave Studios is an excellent accompanying activity to this page.

relation by Tom Henderson

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