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Asteroids Were Born Big

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      Abstract

      How big were the first planetesimals? We attempt to answer this question by conducting coagulation simulations in which the planetesimals grow by mutual collisions and form larger bodies and planetary embryos. The size frequency distribution (SFD) of the initial planetesimals is considered a free parameter in these simulations, and we search for the one that produces at the end objects with a SFD that is consistent with asteroid belt constraints. We find that, if the initial planetesimals were small (e.g. km-sized), the final SFD fails to fulfill these constraints. In particular, reproducing the bump observed at diameter D~100km in the current SFD of the asteroids requires that the minimal size of the initial planetesimals was also ~100km. This supports the idea that planetesimals formed big, namely that the size of solids in the proto-planetary disk ``jumped'' from sub-meter scale to multi-kilometer scale, without passing through intermediate values. Moreover, we find evidence that the initial planetesimals had to have sizes ranging from 100 to several 100km, probably even 1,000km, and that their SFD had to have a slope over this interval that was similar to the one characterizing the current asteroids in the same size-range. This result sets a new constraint on planetesimal formation models and opens new perspectives for the investigation of the collisional evolution in the asteroid and Kuiper belts as well as of the accretion of the cores of the giant planets.

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      Rapid planetesimal formation in turbulent circumstellar discs

      The initial stages of planet formation in circumstellar gas discs proceed via dust grains that collide and build up larger and larger bodies (Safronov 1969). How this process continues from metre-sized boulders to kilometre-scale planetesimals is a major unsolved problem (Dominik et al. 2007): boulders stick together poorly (Benz 2000), and spiral into the protostar in a few hundred orbits due to a head wind from the slower rotating gas (Weidenschilling 1977). Gravitational collapse of the solid component has been suggested to overcome this barrier (Safronov 1969, Goldreich & Ward 1973, Youdin & Shu 2002). Even low levels of turbulence, however, inhibit sedimentation of solids to a sufficiently dense midplane layer (Weidenschilling & Cuzzi 1993, Dominik et al. 2007), but turbulence must be present to explain observed gas accretion in protostellar discs (Hartmann 1998). Here we report the discovery of efficient gravitational collapse of boulders in locally overdense regions in the midplane. The boulders concentrate initially in transient high pressures in the turbulent gas (Johansen, Klahr, & Henning 2006), and these concentrations are augmented a further order of magnitude by a streaming instability (Youdin & Goodman 2005, Johansen, Henning, & Klahr 2006, Johansen & Youdin 2007) driven by the relative flow of gas and solids. We find that gravitationally bound clusters form with masses comparable to dwarf planets and containing a distribution of boulder sizes. Gravitational collapse happens much faster than radial drift, offering a possible path to planetesimal formation in accreting circumstellar discs.
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        Origin of the cataclysmic Late Heavy Bombardment period of the terrestrial planets.

        The petrology record on the Moon suggests that a cataclysmic spike in the cratering rate occurred approximately 700 million years after the planets formed; this event is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB). Planetary formation theories cannot naturally account for an intense period of planetesimal bombardment so late in Solar System history. Several models have been proposed to explain a late impact spike, but none of them has been set within a self-consistent framework of Solar System evolution. Here we propose that the LHB was triggered by the rapid migration of the giant planets, which occurred after a long quiescent period. During this burst of migration, the planetesimal disk outside the orbits of the planets was destabilized, causing a sudden massive delivery of planetesimals to the inner Solar System. The asteroid belt was also strongly perturbed, with these objects supplying a significant fraction of the LHB impactors in accordance with recent geochemical evidence. Our model not only naturally explains the LHB, but also reproduces the observational constraints of the outer Solar System.
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          Oligarchic Growth of Protoplanets

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            15 July 2009
            0907.2512 10.1016/j.icarus.2009.07.011

            http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

            Custom metadata
            Icarus (2009) in press
            astro-ph.EP
            ccsd hal-00403913

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