Have you ever wondered why every planet, and almost every celestial body, is shaped like a spheroid? Why not a cuboid, or even flat for all purposes? It seems, astrophysically speaking, that these shapes wouldn’t only look weird, but would also break the laws of physics, as well. Theoretically, there’s an exception to one odd-shaped planet that wouldn’t: a donut-shaped planet.
Related media: What If Earth Was Shaped Like A Donut?
Baking A Cosmic Donut
A donut-shaped planet — mathematically known as a toroid — could theoretically exist; but unfortunately, it would have to overcome the laws of physics in order to be a reality. Planets are spheroid because of their gravitational pull inwards — a centripetal force that keeps it’s formation. But for a toroid planet to exist, it would need an equal outward force — a centrifugal force (the force you feel when spinning in a merry-go-round), in order to keep the hole, or hub, at the center of the planet from collapsing inward.
Technically speaking, the toroid shaped planet would have both a centripetal force, to keep it from collapsing outward; and a centrifugal force, to keep it from collapsing inward. Both forces would counteract together to hold the planet’s gravity, but if you’re thinking of colonizing one on your next interstellar visit, then conditions on such a planet just got worse than you’d imagine.
Life On A Donut Planet
First, for the two forces to balance out, the planet would have to rotate at an unprecedented pace, so rapidly fast. This would most likely make days and nights on a donut-planet (you guessed it) pretty weird. The length of day and night would be relatively short amid all that intense rotation. Second, the planet would have four sides: the outward side facing the star (that’s the sun), the inward side next to the side facing the star, the outward opposite side not facing the star, and the inward opposite side next to the side not facing the star.
Here’s how a day would be like: The outward side facing the star would be lit, whilst the inward opposite side next to the side not facing the star would be eclipsed by the side facing the star. The outward opposite side not facing the star would be dark, whereas the inward side next to the outward side facing the star would be dark as well. Technically speaking, there will be a day side, two nights, and an eclipse, at every given moment. How bizarre!
Furthermore, the planet’s shape would not only make days and nights weird, but also it’s gravity would do weird things, as well. There would be no poles; the poles of the planet would be imaginary, passing through the hub. Like literally! The centrifugal force together with that immense rotation would make gravity weakest at the equator — which, by the way, it is on Earth too. It’s gravity would be strongest at the tops of the donut-shaped than that of the sides. Unlike the minor differences in the gravity on Earth, these differences would be massive: more than twice as much near the tips as at the equator.
In effect, this means that if you happen to be at the equator, you’d experience a significant weight loss over time. But you’re not done with the damage yet, remember that immense rotational velocity? It would account for the most harsh seasons you’d ever imagine. We’re talking about intense winds (like persistent hurricanes and tsunamis), zonal climate change, massive temperature differences around the planet. And since there are no actual poles and a core, the planet’s magnetic field would be … really bizarre, the less we talk about it, the better you’ll feel.
So, What Does A Donut-Planet Mean?
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.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Mar 16, 2019.