What is gravitational potential energy?

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Gravitational potential energy is the amount of energy present in an object that is placed in a gravitational field. Depending on various factors such as the pull of gravity itself and the mass of the object, its gravitational potential energy will change along with its position in the presence of gravity. Placing an object above the Earth or into the sky for example will create a gravitational potential energy for this particular object. This energy will be at its greatest value at the object’s highest point above the Earth. This energy is created because of the literal work or effort done to place such an object above the Earth and against the energy of gravity itself which pushes the object back down to Earth. As soon as the object reaches the topmost point in the sky, it will also reach its highest gravitational potential energy. When this energy is released and the object is allowed to go back down the Earth, gravitational potential energy will then be converted to kinetic energy.

Various factors can affect the gravitational potential energy that is possessed by an object. The mass or weight of an object will greatly affect its innate gravitational potential energy. Heavier objects have basically higher gravitational potential energy over lighter objects when they are placed above the Earth at the same height for example. This is for the simple reason that it will take much more energy to place the heavier object up in the sky compared to the lighter one. This energy or work will then reach its peak at the highest point above the ground. The actual height of object placement in the sky and the pull of gravity will also affect gravitational potential energy. In the case of the moon wherein the force of gravity is lower, objects put above it will also have lower gravitational potential energy when put in the same scenario on Earth.

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