Turbulence key to planet formation

Turbulence Key to Planet Formation, New Study Suggests

Planet-forming disk arounf star

Swirling eddies and chaotic vortices are crucial to the formation of new planets, suggests a counterintuitive new study.

Such turbulence is vital to helping planets go from “toddler” to
“teenage” size by helping rocks and boulders stick together, the
computer simulation hints.


This is a turnaround from several years ago, when scientists considered
turbulence a destructive bugaboo for newly forming planets.

A few scientists recently suspected that turbulence might help
in planet formation, but no one had showed in detail how that might
work until now.

“We were the first to model how interacting boulders move
around in this turbulence,” said Anders Johansen of the Max Planck
Institute for Astronomy in Germany, who led the research team that made
the new findings. The study appeared last week in the journal Nature.

The research showed that turbulence could create “planetesimals,” or
planetary precursors, very quicklyโ€”in only seven orbits around a
star, or around just a hundred years.

Knowledge Gap

“The new study, for the first time, describes a feasible model of how
really big bodies … could form,” said Jรผrgen Blum of the Technical
University of Braunschweig in Germany.

The study shows that “turbulence might be good for growth [of
planets], as it concentrates particles in certain areas of the
turbulent eddies
,” he added. – that’s why our two-phase research is important ๐Ÿ™‚

Henry Throop of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said that the new study fills a big gap.

“It’s kind of ironic,” Throop said. “We’re used to explaining
things on the size of galaxies, and on really small scales the size of
light waves.

“In planetesimal formation, however, the tricky part is these medium-sized grains,” around a yard (a meter) across, he added.

This new study is “a big step,” Throop said, toward figuring out
how budding planetesimals pass through their “toddler” stage and grow
to full-size planets.


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