What is Projectile Motion?
Projectile motion is a form of motion where an object moves in a bilaterally symmetrical, parabolic path. The path that the object follows is called its trajectory. Projectile motion only occurs when there is one force applied at the beginning on the trajectory, after which the only interference is from gravity. In this atom we are going to discuss what the various components of an object in projectile motion are, we will discuss the basic equations that go along with them in another atom, "Basic Equations and Parabolic Path"
Key Components of Projectile Motion:
Time of Flight, T:
The time of flight of a projectile motion is exactly what it sounds like. It is the time from when the object is projected to the time it reaches the surface. The time of flight depends on the initial velocity of the object and the angle of the projection, θ. When the point of projection and point of return are on the same horizontal plane, the net vertical displacement of the object is zero.
All projectile motion happens in a bilaterally symmetrical path, as long as the point of projection and return occur along the same horizontal surface. Bilateral symmetry means that the motion is symmetrical in the vertical plane. If you were to draw a straight vertical line from the maximum height of the trajectory, it would mirror itself along this line.
Maximum Height, H:
The maximum height of a object in a projectile trajectory occurs when the vertical component of velocity, vy, equals zero. As the projectile moves upwards it goes against gravity, and therefore the velocity begins to decelerate. Eventually the vertical velocity will reach zero, and the projectile is accelerated downward under gravity immediately. Figure 1 shows a diagram of where the projectile will reach its maximum height, and then begin to accelerate downward. This is also the point where you would draw a vertical line of symmetry.
Range of the Projectile, R:
The range of the projectile is the displacement in the horizontal direction. There is no acceleration in this direction since gravity only acts vertically. Figure 2 shows the line of range. Like time of flight and maximum height, the range of the projectile is a function of initial speed.