Zero Gravity Facility At Nasa Glenn Research Center
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Tidal forces arise when the gravitational field is not uniform and gravitation gradients exist. Such indeed is the norm and strictly speaking any object of finite size even in free-fall is subject to tidal effects. These are impossible to remove by inertial motion, except at one single nominated point of the body. The Earth is in free fall but the presence of tides indicates that it is in a non-uniform gravitational field. This non-uniformity is more due to the moon than the sun. The total gravitational field due to the sun is much stronger than that of the moon but it has a minor tidal effect compared with that of the moon because of the relative distances involved. Weight1 of the earth is essentially due to the sun's gravity. But its state of stress and deformation, represented by the tides, is more due to non uniformity in the gravitational field of the nearby moon. When the size of a region being considered is small relative to its distance from the gravitating mass the assumption of uniform gravitational field holds to a good approximation. Thus a person is small relative to the radius of Earth and the field for a person at the surface of the earth is approximately uniform. The field is strictly not uniform and is responsible for the phenomenon of microgravity. Objects near a black hole are subject to a highly non-uniform gravitational field.