Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ideas On Gas-giant Planet Formation Take Shape

Date:
March 25, 2006
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Rocky planets, such as Earth, are born when small particles smash together to form larger, planet-sized clusters in a disk, but researchers are less sure about how gas-giant planets form. Is core accretion--the process that creates their smaller, terrestrial cousins--responsible? Or could an alternate model known as disk instability--in which the planet-forming disk itself actually fragments into a number of planet-sized clumps--be at work? Work from the Carnegie Institution explores both possibilities.

Rocky planets such as Earth and Mars are born when small particles smash together to form larger, planet-sized clusters in a planet-forming disk, but researchers are less sure about how gas-giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn form. Is core accretion--the process that creates their smaller, terrestrial cousins--responsible? Or could an alternate model known as disk instability--in which the planet-forming disk itself actually fragments into a number of planet-sized clumps--be at work? Could both be possible under different circumstances?

Related Articles


Recent work from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism explores both possibilities.

Carnegie Fellow Hannah Jang-Condell1 has devised a method to catch the early stages of gas-giant core accretion in the act. If actively accreting cores exist, they should leave a gravitational "dimple" in the planet-forming disk--even if the cores are only a fraction the size of Jupiter. Since disk instability would result in planet-sized fragments straight away, the existence of these young, intermediate-sized cores would be a clear indicator of core accretion.

The telltale gravitational dimples resemble craters on the Moon with sunlight shining in from the side: the inside of the edge nearest the star is shadowed, while the star-facing edge is illuminated. The bright side heats up and the shadowed side remains cool, yielding a distinct thermal pattern that an Earth-based observer should be able to see in the infrared spectrum. "If we could detect this signature in a protoplanetary disk, it would indicate the presence of a young planetary body that could go on to form a gas-giant via core accretion," Jang-Condell said.

In some situations, however, core accretion seems an unlikely model for gas-giant planet formation. For example, theoretical computer models by DTM staff member Alan Boss2 suggest that disk instability best explains planet formation around M dwarf stars, which have masses from one tenth to one half that of the Sun. Core accretion would likely take more than 10 million years around these small, gravitationally weak stars, while disk instability happens quickly enough to yield gas-giant planets in as little as 1,000 years.

"M dwarf stars dominate the stellar population in the solar neighborhood, and so are attractive targets for searching for habitable planets," Boss said. "The models show that gas-giant planets are indeed likely to form ... at distances sufficiently large enough to permit the later formation of habitable, terrestrial planets."

Other talks and posters on planet formation at the conference include: A study of organic matter in the planet-forming disks of three young stars, ranging in age from less than one million to over 300 million years3; methods to detect water ice, methane ice, and silicate dust in the planet-forming disks of distant stars4; and a method to deduce the composition of far-off planets based on their mass and radius5.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Ideas On Gas-giant Planet Formation Take Shape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 March 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060322135911.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2006, March 25). Ideas On Gas-giant Planet Formation Take Shape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060322135911.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Ideas On Gas-giant Planet Formation Take Shape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060322135911.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) China launched an experimental spacecraft Friday to fly around the moon and back to Earth in preparation for the country's first unmanned return trip to the lunar surface. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins