Mass distribution is a term used in physics and mechanics and describes the spatial distribution of mass within a solid body. In principle, it is relevant also for gases or liquids, but on earth their mass distribution is almost homogeneous.
In astronomy mass distribution has decisive influence on the development e.g. of nebulae, stars and planets. The mass distribution of a solid defines its center of gravity and influences its dynamical behaviour - e.g. the oscillations and eventual rotation.
A mass distribution can be modeled as a measure. This allows point masses, line masses, surface masses, as well as masses given by a volume density function. Alternatively the latter can be generalized to a distribution. For example, a point mass is represented by a delta function defined in 3-dimensional space. A surface mass on a surface given by the equation f(x,y,z) = 0 may be represented by a density distribution g(x,y,z) δ (f(x,y,z)), where \(g/\mid \nabla f \mid\) is the mass per unit area.
Rotating solids are affected considerably by the mass distribution, either if they are homogeneous or inhomogeneous - see Torque, moment of inertia, wobble, imbalance and stability.[disambiguation needed]
- gravity, mass function, Bouguer plate, critical mass
- angular momentum, asymmetry, geoid, isostasy, polar motion
- mass spectrum, molar mass distribution, atmosphere