Gravitation is one of the fundamental forces that govern the universe. The area of space encompassing a body in which another body experiences a force of gravitational attraction is known as the gravitational field.
Gravitational potential energy is the energy possessed by an object because of its position in the gravitational field. One of the most common uses of gravitational potential energy is for an object near the surface of the Earth where the acceleration due to gravity is assumed to be constant (9.8 m/s2). We all know that potential energy represents the stored energy of a system. For example, spring has stored potential energy and can be felt when it is stretched or released.
Consider a body of mass (m) moved from infinity to a point inside the gravitational influence of a source mass (M) without accelerating it, the amount of work done in displacing it into the source field is stored in the form of potential energy and this is known as gravitational potential energy.
The potential energy of a body at a given position is described as the energy stored in the body at that position. When you can witness the change in the position of the body due to the application of external forces, the change in potential energy is equal to the amount of work done on the body by the forces.
Under the action of gravitational force, the work done is free of the path taken for a change in position so the force is a conservative force. The gravitational influence on a body at infinity is zero and hence the potential energy is zero and is referred to as a reference point.
To find the gravitational potential energy, use this formula
GPE = mgh
h is the height above the ground in meters
g is the acceleration due to gravity (9.8 on Earth)
m is the mass in kilograms
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