Limits on Protoplanet Growth by Accretion of Small Solids

Mohamad Ali-Dib, Christopher Thompson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper identifies constraints on the growth of a small planetary core (0.3 M ⊕) that accretes millimeter-sized pebbles from a gaseous disk. We construct time-dependent spherical envelope models that capture physical processes that are not included in existing global hydrodynamic simulations, including particle size evolution, dust transport, and realistic gas equations of state. We assume a low enough disk density that pebbles are marginally coupled to the gas and are trapped efficiently near the core Bondi radius. Pebbles then drift rapidly enough to experience erosion by sandblasting, mutual collisions, and sublimation of water ice. We find that pebble fragmentation is more efficient than dust resticking. Therefore the high pebble accretion rate needed to build a core of mass >M ⊕ leads to a high envelope metallicity and grain opacity. Above yr-1, and without other luminosity sources, convective motions expand near the Bondi radius. The warm, dusty, and turbulent envelope buffers the inward drift of pebble debris: Given a turbulent concentration factor f turb 1 near the lower convective boundary, the core growth rate is limited to 1 × 10-7 f turb M ⊕ yr-1 and the e-folding time 3/f turb Myr. The remainder of the solid debris is expelled as highly processed silicates. Pebble ice never reaches the core, and the envelope contains comparable amounts of H2/He and metals. We interpret our results using simpler steady models and semianalytical estimates. Future global simulations incorporating the processes modeled here are needed to understand the influence of rotation and vertical disk structure.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number96
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Sep 10 2020

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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