Pebbles upon Pebbles makes gas-giant planets like Jupiter

A new research is suggesting that gas-giant planets like Saturn and Jupiter are formed quickly by amassing building blocks as small as pebbles and driving away smaller potential planets from their way.

Stars are formed from gas clouds that rotate slowly and collapse inward. Protostars spin at great pace right at the center of a disk made up of dust and gas. In due course, the dust grains accumulate to form pebble-like structures, which at first gather to form asteroid-sized planetesimals and then finally result in formation of whole planets. Here, it must be mentioned that the details of this particular process of planet formation are still debatable.

A recently presented simulation answers several important questions regarding the process adopted by the fast-paced pebble accretion model of giant planet formation. The process, as mentioned above, allows just a few planets to reign supreme and banish the majority of the asteroids and smaller planets out of the bigger planets’ way.

Previously we have seen scientists talk about several theories of planet formation. Almost all of them relied on a gradual buildup from dust particles to pebble-like debris to asteroid-like planetesimals; the process continued until the growing cores became big enough for grabbing helium and hydrogen gas from the surroundings and giving birth to giant planets.

Observational evidence, on the other hand, indicates that planets were formed quickly, much before gas around the newborn Sun dispersed.

Three years back (in 2012), two Lund University researchers Anders Johansen and Michiel Lambrechts presented a planet formation model that showed miniature pebbles made of dust particles playing key role in allowing quick formation of gas giants. This process has the potential of allowing thousand times faster planet formation than what the earlier model allowed.

The 2012 study showed that all leftover pebbles from the planet formation process, which was earlier believed to have no significance, might actually turn out to be a big solution to the much talked about planet-forming issue.

The model created by the new research team show how the planet formation model proposed in 2012 can be used for describing systems in other corners of the universe more precisely. Some researchers, on the other hand, are carrying out studies to find out what this planet formation method would mean for our solar system’s overall shape.