Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Jupiter-like planets formed in hundreds – not millions – of years, study shows

29.11.2002


An accepted assumption in astrophysics holds that it takes more than 1 million years for gas giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn to form from the cosmic debris circling a young star. But new research suggests such planets form in a dramatically shorter period, as little as a few hundred years.



The forming planets have to be able to survive the effects of nearby stars burning brightly, heating and dispersing the gases that accumulate around the giant planets. If the process takes too long, the gases will be dissipated by the radiation from those stars, said University of Washington astrophysicist Thomas R. Quinn.

"If a gas giant planet can’t form quickly, it probably won’t form at all," he said.


The standard model of planet formation holds that the spinning disk of matter, called a protoplanetary disk, that surrounds a young star gradually congeals into masses that form the cores of planets. That process was thought to take a million years or so, and then the giants gradually accumulate their large gaseous envelopes over perhaps another 1 million to 10 million years.

But the new research, culled from a much-refined mathematical model, suggests that the protoplanetary disk begins to fragment after just a few spins around its star. As the disk fragments, clusters of matter begin to form quickly and immediately start to draw in the gases that form vapor shrouds around gas giants.

"If these planets can’t form quickly, then they should be a relatively rare phenomenon, whereas if they form according to this mechanism they should be a relatively common phenomenon," said Quinn, a UW research assistant astronomy professor.

The existence of gas giant planets, it turns out, seems to be fairly common. Since the mid-1990s, researchers have discovered more than 100 planets, generally from the mass of Jupiter to 10 times that size, orbiting stars outside the solar system. Those planets were deduced by their gravitational effect on their parent stars, and their discovery lends credence to the new research, Quinn said.

Lucio Mayer, a former UW post-doctoral researcher who recently joined the University of Zurich, is lead author of a paper detailing the work, published in the Nov. 29 edition of Science. Besides Quinn, co-authors are James Wadsley of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and Joachim Stadel at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Their work is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Astrobiology Institute.

Since the early 1950s, some scientists have entertained the notion that gas giant planets were formed quickly. However, the model, using a specialized fluid dynamics simulation, had never been refined enough to show what it does now. The Mayer-Quinn team spent the better part of two years refining calculations and plugging them into the model to show what would happen to a protoplanetary disk over a longer time.

"The main criticism people had of this model was that it wasn’t quite ready yet," Quinn said. "Nobody was making any predictions out of it, but here we are making predictions out of it."

The new model explains why two other giant planets in our system, Uranus and Neptune, don’t have gas envelopes like Jupiter and Saturn, Quinn said. At the time those planets were being formed, the solar system was part of a star cluster. The outer planets of Uranus and Neptune were too close to a nearby star – one that has since migrated away – and therefore lost whatever gas envelopes they might have accumulated.

Neither the new model nor the standard model accounts for why most of the gas giant planets found outside the solar system are much nearer their suns than are Jupiter and Saturn, Quinn said. The most common belief currently is that the planets formed farther away from their stars and then migrated inward to the positions where they have been discovered.

The new model also doesn’t account for the formation of terrestrial planets, like Earth and Mars, near our sun. But Quinn suspects that perhaps the smaller terrestrial planets were formed over longer periods by processes described by the standard planet-formation model, while the new model explains how the larger gas giants came to be.

"That’s my bet at the moment," he said.


For more information, contact Quinn at 206-685-9009 or trq@astro.washington.edu, or Mayer at 41-163-55-740 or lucio@physik.unizh.ch

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling
29.03.2017 | New Jersey Institute of Technology

nachricht NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>