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Astronomers refer to the balance of inward and outward forces inside a star as hydrostatic...

Question:

Astronomers refer to the balance of inward and outward forces inside a star as hydrostatic equilibrium. Use laymen's terms to explain what these forces are and how they keep a star from either blowing up or collapsing.

Hydrostatic Equilibrium

Hydrostatic equilibrium is the phenomenon where the outward and inward forces are in balance keeping the structure of the fluid in tact. Hydrostatic equilibrium keeps the size and temperature of a star constant for stability, hence it is like a "thermostat" that controls the temperature of the star. The size and temperature of a star is determined by its equation of state which takes into account the star's elemental composition and type to determine the temperature and size.

Answer and Explanation:


There two dominant forces that keep the stellar structure intact are the force of gravity and the outward pressure. Since stars are made of high-temperature gas, it experiences a tremendous pressure that tends to expand the star. This thermal pressure wants the star to explode due to the outward force. On the other hand, due to the mass of the star gravity exerts a very strong gravitational force that wants to pull the star together and implode. These two forces, the outward thermal pressure and the inward gravity, create a balance that holds the star together to keep its structure.

The balance between the outward force due to thermal pressure and the inward force due to gravity is what prevents a star from blowing up or collapsing.


Learn more about this topic:

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Star Formation: Main Sequence, Dwarf & Giant Stars

from CLEP Natural Sciences: Study Guide & Test Prep

Chapter 9 / Lesson 3
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