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ERIC Number: EJ864413
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Nov
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 11
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Radial Motion of Two Mutually Attracting Particles
Mungan, Carl E.
Physics Teacher, v47 n8 p502-507 Nov 2009
A pair of masses or opposite-sign charges released from rest will move directly toward each other under the action of the inverse-distance-squared force of attraction between them. An exact expression for the separation distance as a function of time can only be found by numerically inverting the solution of a differential equation. A simpler, approximate formula can be obtained by combining dimensional analysis, Kepler's third law, and the familiar quadratic dependence of distance on time for a mass falling near Earth's surface. These exact and approximate results are applied to several interesting examples: the flight time and maximum altitude attained by an object fired straight upward from Earth's surface; the time required for an asteroid of known starting position and speed to cross Earth's orbit if it is bearing toward the Sun; and the collision time of two oppositely charged particles starting from rest.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A