Related questions..

How does the Sun's gravity extend out millions of miles to influence the far reaches of our solar system?

Reference: movie - "Interstellar", 2014 Nolan) / How does a ship avoid strong gravitational effects of a supermassive blackhole while orbiting a planet that is within range of those effects. Scenario: search crew descends to planet surface, leaving one behind on the orbital ship. When crew returns, after a 1/2hr delay, 7yrs transpire on the ship (something like that). So - I understand gravity warps time. My question is: how does mass influence intensity and range of a gravity field?

Layman's terms, please. Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ Although the physicist (& renowned gravitation expert) Kip Thorne was a scientific advisor for Interstellar, not everything in that movie is scientifically accurate, so please don't take it too literally. FWIW, there are several questions on this site asking about various things in Interstellar, mostly to do with time dilation. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 21:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Are you familiar with Newtonian gravity and the formula $F=GMm/r^2$? If so, you can answer your own question. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ @G.Smith I was about to make the same comment when I saw yours $\endgroup$
    – Bob D
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ Weird. Mentioning hard sci-fi movies on Physics StackExchange seems to generate its own gravitational field of contempt. Starting to feel the effects of stress-intimidation tensors in my inertial frame of reference. So much for equivalence principles in this blackhole. Time to dilate out of here. $\endgroup$
    – spaceface
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ @safesphere - I see your point, gravity (warping of space+time) is a causal effect of mass. I was loosely referring to the gravitational field of supermassive blackhole, Gargantua, manifesting the time dilation experienced by characters in the movie who descended to the surface of a planet within the gravity well. So the original question, which has since been answered, relates to what determines the range + intensity of gravity fields. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – spaceface
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


In layman's terms:

  1. the bigger the mass, the stronger the field overall.

  2. the farther away the mass is, the weaker its field becomes. Double the distance, and the field strength gets cut to 1/4; but cut the distance in half and the field strength grows by a factor of 4.

  3. all gravitational fields have infinite range, but for a small mass, beyond a certain distance its field gets lost in the background of all the other masses out there.

  4. the bigger the mass, the farther its field extends before it gets lost in the background.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for clarifying, much appreciated! Would it fair to say: If objects A and B were each the same distance away, respectively, from 2 other objects (X, Z) of equal mass but of different volume or mass density, then A and B would experience the same gravitational effects? $\endgroup$
    – spaceface
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ "the bigger the mass", I think it is worthy to mention that it is actually bigger stress-energy. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 3:47

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