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Author Topic: Why are planets round?  (Read 1577 times)

Offline thedoc

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Why are planets round?
« on: 15/04/2014 13:25:45 »
Paul Anthony Weston asked the Naked Scientists:



   



Why are planets round?



What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/04/2014 13:25:45 by _system »


 

Offline Pmb

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Re: Why are planets round?
« Reply #1 on: 05/04/2014 02:24:11 »
Paul Anthony Weston asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Why are planets round?
What do you think?
A spherically shaped planet represents the minimum amount of energy that the body can have. If the shape is otherwise then any action taken by gravity will act to reduce the amount of energy and that means driving toward the shape of a sphere.
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Why are planets round?
« Reply #2 on: 06/04/2014 12:38:57 »
Radioactive decay will tend to heat the larger solar-system objects, and allow them to "differentiate", separating out the dense metals near the center, and the less-dense silicate minerals near the surface. Collisions with other solar system objects will provide additional heating (provided the collision is not big enough to fragment the object). During this molten state, an object's own gravity will pull it into a near-spherical shape (although it may have a slight equatorial bulge if it was rotating quickly; the Earth has a slight equatorial bulge).

Looking at a list of spherical objects in the solar system, it appears that this differentiation will happen to objects larger than 400-500km radius - which includes all the planets, many moons plus the larger asteroids.

It is likely that this happened to many more objects in the solar system, only they have been subsequently shattered by collisions. We know this because many meteorites show the differentiated nature of "stony" meteorites vs "nickel-iron" meteorites.
 

Floyd Baker

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« Reply #3 on: 09/04/2015 13:05:59 »
It is also because earth's gravity for instance pulls equally in all directions from its center, almost as much as it pulls to its surface from all directions.  The center of the earth is virtually weightless.    
If there were more gravity production in one portion of the earth, say a very large continent with seas on the other side of the globe, as in early earth, that large land mass would pull more strongly from the center, tending to bulge itself upward and split.  It seems the western hemisphere was forced away from the larger area of present day Europe, Africa and Asia in this manner   The earth's crust is only floating on the magma after all.  It is moving around with the upward surges that its own gravity produces and is trying to equalize itself.
 
There are more details at http://www.thecosmosreconsidered.com  
 

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« Reply #3 on: 09/04/2015 13:05:59 »

 

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