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Join date : 2010-09-15

PostSubject: Hydrostatic equilibrium   Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:33 am

When an object achieves hydrostatic equilibrium, also known as gravitational relaxation, there are no gravitational imbalances in its surface. A global layer of liquid placed on this surface (assuming for argument's sake it would remain a liquid) would form a liquid surface of the same shape, apart from small-scale surface features such as craters and fissures. This does not mean the body is a sphere; the faster a body rotates, the more oblate or even scalene it becomes, but such forces affect a liquid surface as well. The extreme example of a non-spherical body in hydrostatic equilibrium is Haumea, which is twice as long along its major axis as it is at the poles.

The masses of the five known dwarf planets, plus Charon, relative to the Earth's Moon. The mass of Makemake is a rough estimate.
The upper and lower size and mass limits of dwarf planets have not been specified by the IAU. There is no defined upper limit, and an object larger or more massive than Mercury that has not "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit" would be classified as a dwarf planet.[33] The lower limit is determined by the requirements of achieving a hydrostatic equilibrium shape, but the size or mass at which an object attains this shape depends on its composition and thermal history. The original draft of the 2006 IAU resolution redefined hydrostatic equilibrium shape as applying "to objects with mass above 5 × 1020 kg and diameter greater than 800 km",[10] but this was not retained in the final draft.[3]

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