Protostars and Planets VI, Heidelberg, July 15-20, 2013

Poster 2H030

On the Minimum Core Mass for Giant Planet Formation

Piso, Ana-Maria (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)
Youdin, Andrew (JILA, University of Colorado)
Murray-Clay, Ruth (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

The core accretion model proposes that giant planets form by the accretion of gas onto a solid protoplanetary core. Previous studies have found that there exists a “critical core mass” past which hydrostatic solutions can no longer be found and unstable atmosphere collapse occurs. This core mass is typically quoted to be around 10Me. In standard calculations of the critical core mass, planetesimal accretion deposits enough heat to alter the luminosity of the atmosphere, increasing the core mass required for the atmosphere to collapse. In this study we consider the limiting case in which planetesimal accretion is negligible and Kelvin-Helmholtz contraction dominates the luminosity evolution of the planet. We develop a two-layer atmosphere model with an inner convective region and an outer radiative zone that matches onto the protoplanetary disk, and we determine the minimum core mass for a giant planet to form within the typical disk lifetime for a variety of disk conditions. We denote this mass as critical core mass. The absolute minimum core mass required to nucleate atmosphere collapse is ∼ 8Me at 5 AU and steadily decreases to ∼ 3.5Me at 100 AU, for an ideal diatomic gas with a solar composition and a standard ISM opacity law. Lower opacity and disk temperature significantly reduce the critical core mass, while a decrease in the mean molecular weight of the nebular gas results in a larger critical core mass. Our results yield lower mass cores than corresponding studies for large planetesimal accretion rates.

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