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Planet formation by pebble accretion

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Callum William Fairbairn.

Surveys of star-forming regions show that protoplanetary gas discs around young stars contain most of their solid mass in particles that are approximately mm in size. If left unperturbed, these so-called pebbles will drift radially towards the host star, on time-scales of a few Myr, because of the drag they experience with respect to the surrounding gas. As a consequence, planet formation becomes a race against time. This talk will focus on how these pebbles are the main building blocks of planet formation. First, spontaneous pile-ups of pebble swarms, triggered by streaming instabilities, can form asteroid-sized objects called planetesimals. Thereafter, the largest of these planetesimals can efficiently sweep up the surrounding drifting pebbles, by a process called pebble accretion. In this way, the massive cores of the gas-giant planets can form in orbits outside the water ice line. Furthermore, within the ice line, we show that the outcome of planet formation results in either terrestrial-like planets or super-Earth systems, based N-body simulations that include planet growth by pebble accretion and planetary migration. These new theoretical finding will be placed in the context of the observed diversity in exoplanets and recent cosmochemical findings in the Solar System that are indicative of large-scale pebble drift.

This talk is part of the DAMTP Astrophysics Seminars series.

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