The Effects of Mass & Distance on Gravity

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Gravity, the force pulling objects toward larger masses, is influenced by both mass, and distance. Identify how these two key components in physics have a direct impact on gravity through examples of planets and moons. Updated: 11/22/2021


I would like you to know that you are an attractive person. I realize that we've never met, yet I am certain that you are indeed attractive. Do you know how I can say this with such confidence? Because you, just like all objects we can see and touch, have mass.

Maybe I need to clarify something. When I'm talking about attractiveness, I'm not referring to the way you look. I'm talking about the attractive force called gravity. Gravity is the force that pulls objects with mass toward each other.

We know about gravity thanks to the work of Sir Isaac Newton. He's the early scientist that got hit on the head with a falling apple. He deduced that the apple fell to the ground because it was being acted on by the earth's attractive force, which he called gravity.

Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation states that all objects in the universe are attracted to each other through the force of gravity. Gravity affects everything in the universe, but the amount of gravity affecting an object depends on two things: the masses of the objects being attracted and the distance between the objects. In this lesson, we will take a look at how mass and distance affect gravity.

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  • 0:02 Gravity
  • 1:23 Mass
  • 2:56 Distance
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Mass is the measure of the amount of matter in an object. For example, a bowling ball and a ping pong ball are made up of matter. However, a bowling ball contains more matter than a ping pong ball and therefore has more mass. A good way to think about the relationship between mass and gravity is to think of the saying 'the bigger they are the harder they fall.' In other words, the gravitational force between objects increases as the masses of those objects increase.

The earth is an object with a lot of mass, so objects fall toward the center of the earth with a noticeable amount of force. This explains why it's easier to lift a ping pong ball over your head than it is to lift a bowling ball. The smaller mass of the ping pong ball means less gravitational pull to overcome. Keep in mind that the Law of Universal Gravitation states that all objects with mass have gravity. Therefore, the bowling ball and the ping pong ball are actually being pulled toward each other. However, their masses are much too small for us to notice the attraction.

This relationship between mass and gravity also explains why you can jump higher on the moon than you can on Earth. The moon has less mass than Earth; therefore, the moon's gravitational force is less than that of the earth. Astronauts leap and jump with ease on the moon because there's less gravity to pull them down.

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