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The force of attraction that operates between all bodies. The size of the attraction depends on the masses of the bodies and the distance between them; gravitational force diminishes with the square of the distance apart according to the inverse-square law. Gravitation is the weakest of the four fundamental forces in nature. I. Newton formulated the laws of gravitational attraction and showed that gravitationally a body behaves as though all its mass were concentrated at its centre of gravity. Hence a gravitational force acts along a line joining the centres of gravity of two masses. In the general theory of relativity, gravitation is interpreted as a distortion of space. Gravitational forces are significant between large masses such as stars, planets, and satellites, and it is this force which is responsible for holding together the major components of the Universe. However, on the atomic scale the gravitational force is about 1040 times weaker than the force of electromagnetic attraction.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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