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The Chaotic Genesis of Planets

Long viewed as a stately procession to a foregone conclusion, planetary formation turns out to be startlingly chaotic
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GAS GIANT SATELLITES

The process for the development of moons of gas giants is not well understood but could be similar to that of the development of the rocky inner planets of our solar system. In that instance, the gas giant would serve as a protosun.....[ More ]

BIRTH OF GAS GIANT

The formation of a gas giant such as Jupiter is the defining moment in the history of a planetary system; if such a planet forms, it shapes the rest of the system. But for that to happen, the embryo’s gravity must draw in gas.....[ More ]

FREE-FLOATING PLANETS

Occasionally during the process of planetesimal formation, bodies are ejected until the system reaches an equilibrium configuration. Astronomers have observed free-floating planets in young stellar clusters.....[ More ]

LARGE PLANETESIMALS

In the beginning the growth of a body is self-reinforcing. The larger a planetesimal becomes, the stronger the gravity it exerts, and the faster it sweeps up its less massive partners. When they attain masses comparable to our moon, however, bodies exert such strong gravity that they stir up surrounding solid material and divert most of it before they can collide with it.....[ More ]

PLANETESIMALS

As the crammed-together dust grains continue to collide and grow, some break through the snow line and continue to migrate inward. But in the process they become coated with slush and complex molecules, which makes them stickier.....[ More ]

COSMIC DUST BUNNIES

Even the mightiest planets have humble roots: as micron-size dust grains embedded in a swirling disk of gas. These dust grains collide, clump and grow in size. The temperature of the protosun’s disk falls with distance from the newborn star, defining a “snow line” beyond which water stays frozen.....[ More ]

DUST GRAINS AND GAS

Dust grains in the protoplanetary disk are stirred by nearby gas and collide with one another. The grains intercept starlight and reemit lower-wavelength infrared light, ensuring that heat reaches even the darkest regions of the disk’s interior.....[ More ]

INTERSTELLAR CLOUD AND PROTOSUN

When clouds of dust and gas are sufficiently cold and dense, they can collapse under the force of gravity to form a protostar. Surrounding each star is a rotating disk of leftover material, the wherewithal for making planets.....[ More ]

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