For irregular, nonspherical mass distributions in three dimensions, Newton’s original vector equation (4) is inefficient, though theoretically it could be used for finding the resulting gravitational field. The main progress in classical gravitational theory after Newton was the development of potential theory, which provides the mathematical representation of gravitational fields. It allows...

...to determine the large-scale structure of the entire universe. Gravity is a fundamental quantity whether it is an essentially geometric parameter, as in general relativity, or the strength of a field, as in one aspect of a more-general field of unified forces. The fact that, so far as is known, gravitation depends on no other physical factors makes it likely that the value of ...

### Earth

Earth’s gravitational field is manifested as the attractive force acting on a free body at rest, causing it to accelerate in the general direction of the centre of the planet. Departures from the spherical shape and the effect of Earth’s rotation cause gravity to vary with latitude over the terrestrial surface. The average gravitational...

### passage of electromagnetic rays

...of a few of the more common terms. Around every particle, whether it be at rest or in motion, whether it be charged or uncharged, there are potential fields of various kinds. As one example, a gravitational field exists around the Earth and indeed around every particle of mass that moves with it. At every point in space, the field has direction in respect to the particle. The strength of...

### Saturn

Information about the interior structure of Saturn is obtained from studying its gravitational field, which is not spherically symmetrical. The rapid rotation and low mean density that lead to distortion of the planet’s physical shape also distort the shape of its gravitational field. The shape of the field can be measured precisely from its effects on the motion of spacecraft in the vicinity...