The Falling Apple and the Orbit of the Moon

Two photos show men in old-fashioned dress.
Figure 7.1 Johannes Kepler (left) showed how the planets move, and Isaac Newton (right) discovered that gravitational force caused them to move that way. ((left) unknown, Public Domain; (right) Sir Godfrey Kneller, Public Domain)

What do a falling apple and the orbit of the moon have in common? You will learn in this chapter that each is caused by gravitational force. The motion of all celestial objects, in fact, is determined by the gravitational force, which depends on their mass and separation.

Johannes Kepler discovered three laws of planetary motion that all orbiting planets and moons follow. Years later, Isaac Newton found these laws useful in developing his law of universal gravitation. This law relates gravitational force to the masses of objects and the distance between them. Many years later still, Albert Einstein showed there was a little more to the gravitation story when he published his theory of general relativity.