gravity well n.
the area of space near a large mass (such as a planet or star) in which significant energy must be expended in order to counteract the object’s gravitational pull; the gravitational pull exerted by a large body in space
In other words the sun will furnish power only for moving in its own gravitational ‘well’.]
Letter in Astounding Science Fiction May 154/1
In interplanetary trade cost is always a matter of where a thing is gravity-wise—not how far away. Earth is a lovely planet but all her products lie at the bottom of a very deep ‘gravity well’, deeper than that of Venus, enormously deeper than Luna’s. [Ibid. vi. 80] Blasting off from Luna is not the terrifying and oppressive experience that a lift from Earth is. The Moon’s field is so weak, her gravity well so shallow, that a boost of one-g would suffice.
Rolling Stones v. 70
Ever hear of maneuvering through a gravity well?
Amateur in Astounding Science Fiction Feb. 97/1
They were aiming only to get off a small world with negligible air resistance, and not even to leave its gravity well entirely.
Snows of Ganymede in Startling Stories Winter 52/1
He was the pilot and engineer, the only other Terrestrial on Mercury. When you dove this far down into the sun’s monstrous gravitational well, you couldn’t take a big crew along. ]
Life Cycle in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction July 53/2
It’s actually harder to maintain human-type conditions on so big a mass, with a useless atmosphere around you, than on a lump in space like this. And the gravity wells are so deep.
Industrial Revolution in Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction Sept. 22/1
But Luna has energy of position; she sits at top of gravity well eleven kilometers per second deep and kept from falling in by curb only two and a half km/s high.
Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in Worlds of If Jan. 62/2
Even the ships of Earth use only a little of their fuel getting in and out of their pet gravity well. Most of it gets burned getting them from place to place fast. And Mars is lighter than Earth.
At the Bottom of a Hole in Galaxy Dec. 102/1
They were still accelerating when a fantastically unlikely accident occurred. Flatbush ran straight into the gravity well of a neutron star.
in Galaxy Magazine May 84/1
They’re headed straight for the surface… Any deeper in the gravity well and the tractors won’t be reliable.
How Much for Just the Planet? 36
Once having escaped Earth’s gravity well, beyond the orbit of the Moon, the vessels had rendezvous-ed in deep space.
Labyrinth of Night 21
Given the acute population and environmental problems on Earth, and the space elevator currently being constructed there to match the one already on Mars, the gravity wells could be surmounted and mass emigration would certainly follow…
Green Mars (new ed.) 334
Mars is just dumb mass at the bottom of a gravity well; there isn’t even a biosphere there.
2006 Analog June 101/1
The interstellar drive could not be operated safely deep within the gravity well of the Double Suns, but nature had provided.
Endurance was at least as maneuverable now as she had been at the beginning, when she had wallowed at the bottom of Earth’s gravity well, burdened with years’ worth of propellant.
Robert Heinlein, The Rolling Stones
Research HistoryMike Christie submitted a cite from Larry Niven's "At the Bottom of a Hole" in the December 1966 Galaxy.
David Tate submitted a cite from Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" in the January 1966 If.
Edward Bornstein submitted a cite from a reprint of Arthur C. Clarke's "Neutron Tide"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1970 original magazine appearance.
Enoch Forrester submitted a 1987 cite from John M. Ford's "How Much for Just the Planet?"
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a 1993 reprint of Vernor Vinge's 1992 "A Fire Upon the Deep".
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a 1983 reprint of Alan Dean Foster's "The Tar-Aiym Krang"; Douglas Winston verified the cite in the 1972 first edition.
Mike Christie submitted a 1963 cite from Poul Anderson's "Industrial Revolution", which was published as by Winston P. Sanders.
David E. Siegel submitted a cite from an undated reprint of Heinlein's "The Rolling Stones"; Jesse Sheidlower verified this in its original publication (Charles Scribner's sons, 1952).
Fred Galvin submitted a 1957 cite for "gravitational well" from Poul Anderson's "Life Cycle".
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1955 cite from Poul Anderson's "Snows of Ganymede".
Bill Mullins submitted a 1951 cite from Willy Ley for "gravitational well".
Bill Mullins submitted a 1954 cite from G. Harry Stine (writing as "Lee Correy") in Astounding.
Last modified 2023-11-16 23:37:37
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.