MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: How does radioactive decay affect to gravitational field?

Date: Mon Sep 10 09:18:15 2001
Posted By: Donald Terndrup, Faculty, Astronomy, Ohio State University
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 997789031.As

The strength of gravity depends on the total mass/emergy available.  If a
nucleus emits a particle or a photon, the gravity decreases.   If particles
join up, there's more mass and more gravity.

Note, however, that gravity is extremely (really really really extremely!) weak
compared to the electrical and nuclear forces within an atom, and can be
ignored.  Gravity is the weakest of all the physical forces.  We only notice
gravity because we're sitting right next to a giant lump of electrically
neutral matter called the Earth.  

During the lifetime of the Sun, it will radiate away a total energy equal
to its energy emitted per second times its lifetime.  This amount of energy
corresponds to about 10 to the 28th power kilograms being completely converted
to energy. The mass of the Sun is about 200 times larger than this, so the
energy loss produces a tiny change to the gravity.   

During the Big Bang, nuclear and electrical forces were far more important
than gravity when the universe was at densities like today's nuclei - so
just as in atoms, gravity is a very weak force and can be ignored in the

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