- #1

- 4

- 0

I'm confused as to how to approach this problem.

I realized quickly that the potential energy of the comet at the midpoint is 0 because at that point the radius equals 0, so I wanted to use kinetic energy and work to figure the problem out, the only problem is that I don't know the distance over which the force is exerted.

Also, I know the force that the stars are exerting on the comet using F_g=G*m_1*m_2/r^2. Well I guess it's more that I know the acceleration due to gravity that the comet experiences because I can cancel out the mass of the comet on both sides, which is necessary because the problem doesn't state the mass of the comet. I could then figure the problem out using the kinematic equation v^2=v_0^2+2aΔx, but I don't know the distance from the star system that the comet starts off at.

Now that I think about it, there must be a maximum radius where the star system starts acting on the comet, and I can use that as my distance... actually if I can determine that I think I will just say that the initial potential energy=final kinetic energy and use that maximum radius as my "height."

Specific Questions:

Can I treat the star system as one source of gravitational force where the radius is the comet's distance from the center of mass of the two stars?

Is there a specific method for solving this kind of problem that I'm not aware of?

Is my last paragraph "Now that I think about it..." on the right track?