### Equations for a falling body near the surface of the Earth

Main article: Equations for a falling body

Under an assumption of constant gravity, Newton's law of universal gravitation simplifies to *F*=

*mg*, where

*m*is the mass of the body and

*g*is a constant vector with an average magnitude of 9.81 m/s

^{2}. The acceleration due to gravity is equal to this

*g*. An initially stationary object which is allowed to fall freely under gravity drops a distance which is proportional to the square of the elapsed time. The image on the right, spanning half a second, was captured with a stroboscopic flash at 20 flashes per second. During the first

^{1}⁄

_{20}of a second the ball drops one unit of distance (here, a unit is about 12 mm); by

^{2}⁄

_{20}it has dropped at total of 4 units; by

^{3}⁄

_{20}, 9 units and so on.

Under the same constant gravity assumptions, the potential energy,

*E*, of a body at height

_{p}*h*is given by

*E*=

_{p}*mgh*(or

*E*=

_{p}*Wh*, with

*W*meaning weight). This expression is valid only over small distances

*h*from the surface of the Earth. Similarly, the expression for the maximum height reached by a vertically projected body with velocity

*v*is useful for small heights and small initial velocities only.

### Gravity and astronomy

Main article: Gravitation (astronomy)

The discovery and application of Newton's law of gravity accounts for the detailed information we have about the planets in our solar system, the mass of the Sun, the distance to stars, quasars and even the theory of dark matter. Although we have not traveled to all the planets nor to the Sun, we know their masses. These masses are obtained by applying the laws of gravity to the measured characteristics of the orbit. In space an object maintains its orbit because of the force of gravity acting upon it. Planets orbit stars, stars orbit Galactic Centers, galaxies orbit a center of mass in clusters, and clusters orbit in superclusters. The force of gravity is proportional to the mass of an object and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the objects.### Gravitational radiation

Main article: Gravitational wave

In general relativity, gravitational radiation is generated in situations where the curvature of spacetime is oscillating, such as is the case with co-orbiting objects. The gravitational radiation emitted by the Solar System is far too small to measure. However, gravitational radiation has been indirectly observed as an energy loss over time in binary pulsar systems such as PSR B1913+16. It is believed that neutron star mergers and black hole formation may create detectable amounts of gravitational radiation. Gravitational radiation observatories such as LIGO have been created to study the problem. No confirmed detections have been made of this hypothetical radiation, but as the science behind LIGO is refined and as the instruments themselves are endowed with greater sensitivity over the next decade, this may change.
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