We examine, in a general manner, the role played by the initial density and velocity distributions in the gravitational collapse of a spherically symmetric inhomogeneous dust cloud. Such a collapse is described by the Tolman-Bondi metric which has two free functions: the ‘mass-function ’ and the ‘energy function’, which are determined by the initial density and velocity profiles of the cloud. The collapse can end in either a black-hole or a naked singularity, depending on the initial parameters characterizing these profiles. In the marginally bound case, we find that the collapse ends in a naked singularity if the leading non-vanishing derivative of the density at the center is either the first one or the second one. If the first two derivatives are zero, and the third derivative non-zero, the singularity could either be naked or covered, depending on a quantity determined by the third derivative and the central density. If the first three derivatives are zero, the collapse ends in a black hole. In particular, the classic result of Oppenheimer and Snyder, that homogeneous dust collapse leads to a black hole, is recovered as a special case. Analogous results are found when the cloud is not marginally bound, and also for the case of a cloud starting from rest. A condition on the initial density profile is given for the singularity to be globally naked. We also show how the strength of the naked singularity depends on the density and velocity distribution. Our analysis generalizes and simplifies the earlier work of Christodoulou and Newman [4,5] by dropping the assumption of evenness of density functions. It turns out that relaxing this assumption allows for a smooth transition from the naked singularity phase to the black-hole phase, and also allows for the occurrence of strong curvature naked singularities. 2 I

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