Photo by: LeSoldatMort/Deviantart

LeSoldatMort/Deviantart

Yes, A Donut-Shaped Planet Is Technically Possible

By: Ashley Hamer

A theoretical planet could form tells us a lot about own planet.

August 01, 2019

Have you ever wondered why every planet we know about is shaped like a sphere? Why not a cube, or an hourglass? While those — and let's be honest, most other shapes — would definitely break the laws of physics, there's one odd planet form that wouldn't: a donut.

How It's Possible

A planet in the shape of a donut, or toroid, as it's called in mathematics, could technically exist, but it would have to jump some steep physics hurdles to get there. Planets are round because gravity pulls inward. To keep the hole, or hub, at the center of a toroid planet from collapsing, you'd need an equal outward force. Centrifugal force (the force you feel when a spinning merry-go-round nearly sends you flying) could do the trick, but it would mean that the planet would have to rotate at an extremely high rate. That would most likely make a day on a donut-shaped planet last just a few hours.

Its shape would also do funny things to gravity. That centrifugal force would make gravity the weakest at the equator (which, by the way, it is on Earth too). Gravity would be strongest just inward from the poles. But unlike the minor differences in gravity on Earth, these differences would be massive: more than twice as much near the poles as at the equator. That means a vacation to the tropics would come with instant weight loss — a pretty good deal. But don't pack your bags just yet: remember that high rotation rate? It would make for harsh weather. We're talking intense winds, zoned climates with massive temperature differences, and small, super-strong storm systems.

Why You Should Care

Knowing about how a theoretical planet could form tells you a lot about your own planet. Who knew that Earth's sphere shape is why gravity is mostly the same all over, and its 24-hour rotation is why the weather is relatively pleasant? Of course, there's another reason imagining a donut-shaped world is worthwhile: It's just plain cool.

This article first appeared on Curiosity.com.

Next Up

World's First Malaria Vaccine Offers Hope to Millions

Tens of thousands of lives could be saved each year from sickness and death caused by malaria following the World Health Organization (WHO) approval of a first-ever vaccine. Scientists have recommended the RTS,S vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa and other high-risk areas to prevent one of the world’s oldest and deadliest infectious diseases.

4 Reasons Why Earth is the Best Planet to Call Home

Since 1970, folks from around the world have gathered together to celebrate Earth Day, an appreciation for all the good stuff we’ve got here on the Earth – and a reminder to try not to mess it up. But what’s so special about the Earth, anyway?

July in the Sky: Celestial Events Happening This Month

With eclipses, meteor showers, and more, it's a busy month in the night sky this July. Take some time this summer to look up and enjoy these cosmic wonders.

Scientists Have Discovered Enormous Balloon-Like Structures in the Center of Our Galaxy

There's something really, really big in the middle of our Milky Way galaxy — one of the largest structures ever observed in the region, in fact.

The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Virus

As the death tolls rise, Coronavirus is on the minds of people all over the world. Learn about this new virus and how we got here. Originally published: 2/20/2020 Updated: 3/9/2020

Check out the Earth’s 800,000 Year Old Battle Wound

Scientists may have discovered the location of an ancient buried crater, a result of a meteorite that barreled into the Earth some 800,000 years ago.

Celebrating Hubble's 30 Year Legacy

Three cheers for the Hubble! First launched in 1990 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, the storied space telescope is celebrating is thirtieth year in lonely orbit around the Earth.

Get Celestial with Lowell Observatory LIVE!

Our friends at Lowell Observatory are serving up our solar system on a platter live!

Check Out the Crab Nebula –The Leftovers from a Giant Cosmic Firework

The Crab Nebula sits 6,500 light-years away, and is currently about 11 light-years across. But while it looks pretty from afar, don’t give in to the temptation to visit it up close.

Farewell, Earth’s Mini-moon

It's time to say goodbye to the mini-moon that's no bigger than your car.