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Astrophysics

Title: The Formation of Ice Giants in a Packed Oligarchy: Instability and Aftermath

Authors: Eric B. Ford (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), Eugene Chiang (UC Berkeley)
Abstract: As many as 5 ice giants--Neptune-mass planets composed of 90% ice and rock and 10% hydrogen--are thought to form at heliocentric distances of 10-25 AU on closely packed orbits spaced ~5 Hill radii apart. Such oligarchies are ultimately unstable. Once the parent disk of planetesimals is sufficiently depleted, oligarchs perturb one another onto crossing orbits. We explore both the onset and the outcome of the instability through numerical integrations, including dynamical friction cooling of planets by a planetesimal disk whose properties are held fixed. To trigger instability and the ejection of the first ice giant in systems having an original surface density in oligarchs of Sigma ~ 1 g/cm^2, the disk surface density s must fall below 0.1 g/cm^2. Ejections are predominantly by Jupiter and occur within 10 Myr. To eject more than 1 oligarch requires s < 0.03 g/cm^2. Systems starting with up to 4 oligarchs in addition to Jupiter and Saturn can readily yield solar-system-like outcomes in which 2 surviving ice giants lie inside 30 AU and have their orbits circularized by dynamical friction. Our numerical simulations support the idea that planetary systems begin in more crowded and compact configurations, like those of shear-dominated oligarchies. In contrast to previous studies, we identify s < 0.1 Sigma as the regime relevant for understanding the evolution of the outer solar system, and we encourage future studies to concentrate on this regime while relaxing our assumption of a fixed planetesimal disk.
Comments: Accepted to ApJ Jan 27. Incorporates comments from the referee and community at large. 15 pages, 14 figures, including 7 color
Subjects: Astrophysics (astro-ph)
Journal reference: Astrophys.J.661:602-615,2007
DOI: 10.1086/513598
Cite as: arXiv:astro-ph/0701745
  (or arXiv:astro-ph/0701745v2 for this version)

Submission history

From: Eugene Chiang [view email]
[v1] Thu, 25 Jan 2007 21:10:17 GMT (239kb)
[v2] Sun, 28 Jan 2007 20:33:11 GMT (239kb)