The gravitational potential energy of a two particle system is:

$$ U = -G \, \frac{m_1 \, m_2}{r} $$

where $r$ is the distance between the two particles with mass $m_1$ and $m_2$, and the potential energy at infinite separation is taken to be zero.

My question is the following:

Is this the sum of the potential energies possessed by each particle? If that is the case, then what would be the contribution of each particle to the total potential energy?

  • $\begingroup$ have a look here hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/gpot.html $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Dec 18, 2015 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ Potential energy between two masses is..... We know, but concept of energy depend on system so we cannot define your problem until you define what is your system. $\endgroup$
    – user102574
    Dec 31, 2015 at 6:23

1 Answer 1


The potential energy isn't possessed by either object. It is a property of the system of two objects and their interaction. If anything, I would say the potential energy is in the gravitational field.


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