Glenbrook South Year-End Projects
The Physics of Planetary
Basic Research Questions
Your role as researcher for this project involves acquiring a
wealth of technical information about the variables which affect the
motion of planets about the sun and the motion of other celestial
bodies. The process of conducting a literature search should yield
some basic information about the laws of planetary motion and the
motion characteristics of orbitting planets. Some basic topics for
research and ultimate discussion have been listed below to assist you
in the initial stages of your literature search. The role of this
listing is to provide an initial framework for your literature search
and not a conclusive list of topics to be discussed. Your group is
expected to go beyond these topics, exploring diverse areas of
individual interest about sight and sound in nature.
- Identify the nine planets which orbit the sun and accumulate
data relevant to each planet's orbit (e.g., planet mass, orbital
radius, orbital speed, orbital period, etc.).
- Sketch the history of the efforts of scientists to
understand the heavens and identify strategic individuals
who made key contributions to our current understanding.
- State Kepler's three laws of planetary motion and explain how
each law applies to the motion of planets about the Sun.
- Demonstrate the relationship between orbital period (T) and
orbital radius (R) by using specific values for T and R for
various planets in order to show the existing patterns.
- Compare and contrast the motion of planets to about the sun to
uniform circular motion.
- State Newton's law of universal gravitation with both words
and equations and show how the law can be used to determine the
force of gravitational attraction between the sun and a given
- Describe how Newton was able to convince the scientific world
of the validity of the law of universal gravitation.
- Describe the motion characteristics of a planet in orbit about
the sun using both words and vector diagrams, giving particular
attention to the relative magnitude and the direction of the
velocity, acceleration, and net force vector.
- Find (or develop) an equation which describes the variables
which effect the velocity of an orbitting planet.
- Describe the efforts of space scientists to navigate
satellites and to conduct space missions in such a manner as to
investigate the nature of our solar system.
- Discuss the origin of such celestial bodies as asteroids and
comets and describe the variables which would effect their entry
into and motion through and within our solar system.
- Discuss Einstein's conception of gravitation and the curvature
of space and contrast them with traditional Newtonian ideas about
- Discuss the scope and magnitude of our cosmos and
investigate some current findings of astronomers regarding such
cosmic phenomenon as white dwarfs, black holes, supernovas, etc.
- Discuss the methods, procedures, and instruments used by
scientists to explore our cosmos.
The Physics of
Other GBS Resources
The GBS Physics staff invite
you to send electronic mail:
Questions and comments can be sent to
This page last updated on 2/22/98.