Thursday, January 15, 2015

Minimum Core Masses for Giant Planet Formation

Minimum Core Masses for Giant Planet Formation With Realistic Equations of State and Opacities


Piso et al


Giant planet formation by core accretion requires a core that is sufficiently massive to trigger runaway gas accretion in less that the typical lifetime of protoplanetary disks. We explore how the minimum required core mass, M_crit, depends on a non-ideal equation of state and on opacity changes due to grain growth, across a range of stellocentric distances from 5-100 AU. This minimum M_crit applies when planetesimal accretion does not substantially heat the atmosphere. Compared to an ideal gas polytrope, the inclusion of molecular hydrogen (H_2) dissociation and variable occupation of H_2 rotational states increases M_crit. Specifically, M_crit increases by a factor of ~2 if the H_2 spin isomers, ortho- and parahydrogen, are in thermal equilibrium, and by a factor of ~2-4 if the ortho-to-para ratio is fixed at 3:1. Lower opacities due to grain growth reduce M_crit. For a standard disk model around a Solar mass star, we calculate M_crit ~ 8 M_Earth at 5 AU, decreasing to ~5 M_Earth at 100 AU, for a realistic EOS with an equilibrium ortho-to-para ratio and for grain growth to cm-sizes. If grain coagulation is taken into account, M_crit may further reduce by up to one order of magnitude. These results for the minimum critical core mass are useful for the interpretation of surveys that find exoplanets at a range of orbital distances.

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