Wednesday, June 5, 2013

1306.0576 (Sourav Chatterjee et al.)

Inside-Out Planet Formation    [PDF]

Sourav Chatterjee, Jonathan C. Tan
The compact multi-transiting planet systems discovered by Kepler challenge planet formation theory. Formation in situ from disks with radial mass surface density profiles similar to the minimum mass solar nebula (MMSN) but boosted in normalization by factors ~10 has been suggested. We propose that a more natural way to create these planets in the inner disk is formation sequentially from the inside-out via creation of successive gravitationally unstable rings fed from a continuous stream of small (~cm--m size) "pebbles", drifting inwards via gas drag. Pebbles collect at the pressure maximum associated with the transition from a magneto-rotational instability (MRI)-inactive ("dead zone") region to an inner MRI-active zone. A pebble ring builds up until it either becomes gravitationally unstable to form an ~1--10 M_\Earth planet directly or induces gradual planet formation via core accretion. The planet continues to accrete from the disk until it becomes massive enough to isolate itself from the accretion flow. A variety of densities may result depending on the relative importance of residual gas accretion as the planet approaches its isolation mass. At this point the process repeats with a new pebble ring gathering at the new pressure maximum associated with the retreating dead zone boundary. Our simple theoretical model for this process of inside-out planet formation yields planetary masses, relative mass scalings with orbital radius, and minimum orbital separations consistent with those seen by Kepler. It provides an explanation of how massive planets can form with tightly-packed system architectures, starting from typical protoplanetary disk properties.
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