Astro for Kids: Why are planets round?


If you ever played on a merry-go-round, you know that the spinning merry-go-round tends to throw you off. The faster it spins, the harder it is to stay on. This tendency to be flung off is called centrifugal force and pushes the mass on the equator outward. This makes the planet bulge at the equator.

The faster the spin, the more unround it becomes. Then, when it cools and hardens, it retains that shape. If a molten planet starts off spinning faster, it would be less round and have a bigger bulge.

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The planet Saturn is very oblate – non-spherical – because it rotates very fast. Because of gravity, all planets are round, and because they rotate at different rates, some have fatter equators than their poles. So the shape of the planet and the speed and direction that it rotates depends on the initial condition of the material out of which it forms.

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This story was originally published with The Conversation. Read the original here. 

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