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1. A function of space, the gradient of which is equal to a force. In symbols, F = -Missing Image:img src="SP7_p_files/del.gif" align="middle"φ, where F is the force; Missing Image:img src="SP7_p_files/del.gif" align="middle" is the del-operator; and φ is the potential. A force which may be so expressed is said to be conservative, and the work done against it in motion from one given equipotential surface to another is independent of the path of the motion. See Gibbs function, potential energy. </dd>
In celestial mechanics and geodesy, the negative of the potential, sometimes called force function, is usually employed. </dd>
2. Applied to the value that an atmospheric thermodynamic variable would attain if processed adiabatically from its initial pressure to the standard pressure of 1000 millibars. See potential density, potential temperature. </dd>
3. Short for electric potential. [[/a>|/a> ]]


This article is based on NASA's Dictionary of Technical Terms for Aerospace Use