# Jeans Instability - Jeans Length

Jeans Length

Jeans' length is the critical radius of a cloud (typically a cloud of interstellar dust) where thermal energy, which causes the cloud to expand, is counteracted by gravity, which causes the cloud to collapse. It is named after the British astronomer Sir James Jeans, who concerned himself with the stability of spherical nebula in the early 1900s.

The formula for Jeans Length is:

where is Boltzmann's constant, is the temperature of the cloud, is the radius of the cloud, is the mass per particle in the cloud, is the Gravitational Constant and is the cloud's mass density (i.e. the cloud's mass divided by the cloud's volume).

Perhaps the easiest way to conceptualize Jeans' Length is in terms of a close approximation, in which we discard the factors and and in which we rephrase as . The formula for Jeans' Length then becomes:

It follows immediately that when i.e. the cloud's radius is the Jeans' Length when thermal energy per particle equals gravitational work per particle. At this critical length the cloud neither expands nor contracts. It is only when thermal energy is not equal to gravitational work that the cloud either expands and cools or contracts and warms, a process that continues until equilibrium is reached.

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Jeans Instability - Jeans Length
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