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Homework Help: Gravitational Potential Energy of an object

  1. Jun 21, 2010 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Consider a large uniform ring having a mass of 2.36x1020kg and a radius 1.00x108m. An object with a mass of 1000kg is placed at a point 2.00x108m from the center of the ring. When the object is released, the attraction of the ring makes the object move along a straight line toward the center of the ring. Calculate the gravitational potential energy of the object-ring system when the object is at the starting point, and then calculate the potential energy at the ending point. Calculate the object's speed as it passes through B.

    2. Relevant equations
    U= -Gm1m2/r

    3. The attempt at a solution
    I used this equation for the initial condition with G=6.673x10-11 m1=2.36x1020 m2=1000 and r=2.00x108. The answer I got was -7.87x104. The book says that the answer is -7.04x104, I am assuming that I need to factor in the radius of the ring somehow but I don't know how I should work it into the equation.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2010 #2

    Doc Al

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You're using the wrong distance. You need the distance between the object and the ring (where the mass is), not between the object and the center of the ring.
  4. Jun 21, 2010 #3
    Aaaahh I see, treat it like a right triangle and then use this equation. You've saved my sanity one more time Doc. Thanks so much.
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