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Planetesimals

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default Planetesimals

Post by taixyz1992 on Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:19 am

Planetesimals are solid objects thought to exist in protoplanetary disks and in debris disks.

A widely accepted theory of planet formation, the so-called planetesimal hypothesis of Viktor Safronov, states that planets form out of dust grains that collide and stick to form larger and larger bodies. When the bodies reach sizes of approximately one kilometer, then they can attract each other directly through their mutual gravity, enormously aiding further growth into moon-sized protoplanets. This is how planetesimals are often defined. Bodies that are smaller than planetesimals must rely on Brownian motion or turbulent motions in the gas to cause the collisions that can lead to sticking. Alternatively, planetesimals can form in a very dense layer of dust grains that undergoes a collective gravitational instability in the mid-plane of a protoplanetary disk. Many planetesimals eventually break apart during violent collisions, as may have happened to 4 Vesta[1] and 90 Antiope,[2] but a few of the largest planetesimals can survive such encounters and continue to grow into protoplanets and later planets.


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