Des Moines High School
Earth and Space Sciences
Modelling Solar Gravitational Fields
The objective of this project is to study the varying gravitational intensity and model it using real-time false color graphics. The first part of the project will be to construct a static model of the Solar system. The Newtonian equation
Force = G( (m*m) / (d^2) )
will be used to compute the magnitude and direction of gravitational attraction for points spaced about an ordered Cartesian grid. All that is required for this part is the masses of the Solar objects and the positions of the objects at a certain time.
The results of the first phase of the project (static, 2-D) will be a "map" of the gravitational intensity throughout the Solar system. This could be modeled in the format of a GIF image.
This phase can be expanded one of two ways. One way is to expand on the dimensional aspect of the modeling to create a static 3-D gravitational intensity model. 3-D coordinates of the objects' positions are needed to expand the scope in this direction. The resultant model could be a VRML world.
The other way of expanding the scope of the project is to keep the dimensional aspect 2-D, and introduce a time element. Required for this aspect are the orbits of the planets, and the mathematical representations of the orbits. This model could be an animated GIF89 image.
Further optional expansions could use Einstein's gravitational equations of General Relativity in place of Newton's gravitational equations to model not only gravitational intensity, but other factors such as time flow, mass variances, and length contractions.
Applications of this project can include the integration of data into a system to model the paths of moving objects (meteors, comets, planets) through the solar system. The data obtained from this project could also prove valuable to many astrophysicists.