Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Can Pebble Accretion Planetary Formation Explain the Diversity of Systems Observed?




This paper examines the standard model of planet formation, including pebble accretion, using numerical simulations. Planetary embryos that are large enough to become giant planets do not form beyond the ice line within a typical disk lifetime unless icy pebbles stick at higher speeds than in experiments using rocky pebbles. Systems like the solar system (small inner planets and giant outer planets) can form if icy pebbles are stickier than rocky pebbles, and if the planetesimal formation efficiency increases with pebble size, which prevents the formation of massive terrestrial planets. Growth beyond the ice line is dominated by pebble accretion. Most growth occurs early, when the surface density of the pebbles is high due to inward drift of the pebbles from the outer disk. Growth is much slower after the outer disk is depleted. The outcome is sensitive to the disk radius and turbulence level, which control the lifetime and maximum size of pebbles. The outcome is sensitive to the size of the largest planetesimals because there is a threshold mass for the onset of pebble accretion. The planetesimal formation rate is unimportant, provided that some large planetesimals form while the pebbles remain abundant. Two outcomes are seen, depending on whether pebble accretion begins while the pebbles are still abundant. Either multiple gas-giant planets form beyond the ice line, small planets form close to the star, and a Kuiper-belt-like disk of bodies is scattered outward by the giant planets; or no giants form and the bodies remain an Earth-mass or smaller.

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