Astrophysics (Index)About

gravitationally bound

(description of objects kept together by gravity)

Two or more objects being gravitationally bound means they are close enough that gravity is keeping them together (attached or orbiting each other). The term describes two objects co-orbiting (e.g., the Earth and the Moon) or a whole system of objects (the solar system), or a stellar cluster or galaxy cluster, and some would reserve the term supercluster for a gravitationally-bound group of galaxy clusters. In addition to such objects, the gravitationally-bound object could be a gas cloud such as an accretion disk. It also describes us, with Earth, i.e., anything on Earth's surface. Separating gravitationally-bound objects generally requires energy to accelerate them to the escape velocity, i.e., impart the necessary kinetic energy (gravitational binding energy). For more than two objects gravitationally bound, it is possible that during an interaction of three or more, some energy is swapped giving one enough kinetic energy to escape, which can be called being kicked out: for example, a comet might be sent out of the solar system or a star sent out of a globular cluster.

Further reading:

Referenced by pages:
core collapse supernova (CCSN)
dense core
double star
galactic halo
galaxy group
giant molecular cloud (GMC)
Hill radius
Keplerian orbit
Laniakea Supercluster
mass transport
orbital element
projected separation
satellite plane problem
solar system
star system
virial parameter
wide binaries (WB)