Journal article

Theory of planet formation

Mordasini C, Klahr H, Alibert Y, Benz W, Dittkrist K ...see all
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We review the current theoretical understanding how growth from micro-meter sized dust to massive giant planets occurs in disks around young stars. After introducing a number of observational constraints from the solar system, from observed protoplanetary disks, and from the extrasolar planets, we simplify the problem by dividing it into a number of discrete stages which are assumed to occur in a sequential way. In the first stage - the growth from dust to kilometer sized planetesimals - the aerodynamics of the bodies are of central importance. We discuss both a purely coagulative growth mode, as well as a gravoturbulent mode involving a gravitational instability of the dust. In the next stage, planetesimals grow to protoplanets of roughly 1000 km in size. Gravity is now the dominant force. The mass accretion can be strongly non-linear, leading to the detachment of a few big bodies from the remaining planetesimals. In the outer planetary system (outside a few AU), some of these bodies can become so massive that they eventually accrete a large gaseous envelope. This is the stage of giant planet formation, as understood within the core accretion-gas capture paradigm. We also discuss the direct gravitational collapse model where giant planets are thought to form directly via a gravitational fragmentation of the gas disk. In the inner system, protoplanets collide in the last stage - probably after the dispersal of the gaseous disk - in giant impacts until the separations between the remaining terrestrial planets become large enough to allow long term stability. We finish the review with some selected questions.

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  • Christoph Mordasini

  • Hubert Klahr

  • Yann Alibert

  • Willy Benz

  • Kai-Martin Dittkrist

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