Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Hydrostatic equilibrium

Hydrostatic equilibrium occurs when compression due to gravity is balanced by outward pressure.


The Hydrostatic equilibrium pertains to hydrostatics and the principles of equilibrium of fluids. A Hydrostatic balance is a particular balance for weighing substances in water. Hydrostatic balance allow the discovery of their specific gravities.


In astrophysics, any given layer of a star, there is a balance between the thermal pressure (outward) and the weight of the material above pressing downward (inward). This balance is called hydrostatic equilibrium. A star is like a balloon. In a balloon the gas inside the balloon pushes outward and the elastic material supplies just enough inward compression to balance the gas pressure. In a star the star's internal gravity supplies the inward compression. Gravity compresses the star into the most compact shape possible: a sphere. Stars are round because gravity attracts everything in an object to the center.

In physics, Hydrostatic equilibrium also explains why Earth's atmosphere does not collapse to a very thin layer on the ground and how the tires on your car or bicyle are able to support the weight of your vehicle.

See also: Statics