Learning objects Gravity and orbits

TLF ID M012214

This is an interactive teaching and learning resource that years 7 to 10 secondary students can use to simulate the orbits of the Earth, Moon and a space station while altering the physical quantities involved. Orbital pathways, velocity and force vectors can be displayed in either scale or cartoon views. The mass and velocity of the celestial objects can be modified and the resulting orbits observed. An extensive teacher's guide in PDF format provides a range of ideas on how the resource can be used as a teaching or student investigative tool.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The resource provides significant support for the Australian Curriculum content description about comprehending that gravity pulls objects towards the centre of the Earth and, more generally, that gravity pulls planets towards the Sun, thus keeping them in orbit.
  • The resource could also support the content description relating to making predictions based on scientific knowledge, more specifically predicting how the orbit of a celestial object will change based on a knowledge of the relationships between distance, mass and velocity.
  • The resource reflects the evidence-based multimedia design principles of efficient learning and the suggested activities in the teacher's guide are pedagogically sound.
  • The resource may to a limited extent assist students to attain that aspect of the year 7 achievement standard requiring them to predict the effect of an unbalanced force, such as gravity, on the motion of an object: in this context, the effect of gravity on an object with a sideways component of motion.
Year level


Learning area
  • Science

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: PhET Interactive Simulations\, University of Colorado
  • Organization: PhET Interactive Simulations\, University of Colorado
  • URL: http://phet.colorado.edu
  • Publisher
  • Name: PhET Interactive Simulations\, University of Colorado
  • Organization: PhET Interactive Simulations\, University of Colorado
  • Description: Publisher
  • URL: http://phet.colorado.edu
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL: www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Unknown
Learning Resource Type
  • Interactive
  • Resource: © 2011 University of Colorado. This material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0) licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/. ‘Interactive’ image: © Education Services Australia Limited 2012. You may use, reproduce and communicate this image for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the image.