EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 410, Number 2, November I 2003
Page(s) 711 - 723
Section The Sun
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20031248

A&A 410, 711-723 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20031248

Enhanced collisional growth of a protoplanet that has an atmosphere

S. Inaba1 and M. Ikoma2

1  Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Oookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8551, Japan
2  Interactive Research Center of Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Oookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8551, Japan

(Received 14 February 2003 / Accepted 12 May 2003 )

Once a protoplanet becomes larger than about lunar size, it accumulates a significant atmosphere that surrounds the solid core. When a planetesimal approaches the protoplanet, it interacts with the atmosphere. If enough energy of the planetesimal is lost by gas drag of the atmosphere, it is captured in the atmosphere even if its original trajectory would not lead to a direct collision with the solid core of the protoplanet. This increases the collision rate, resulting in faster growth of the protoplanet. We have derived the analytical calculations for the collision rate, and calculated the structure of the atmosphere and the trajectories of the planetesimals in the atmosphere. As a result of their large gas drag, small planetesimals are easily captured, resulting in a large rate of collision with the protoplanet. A collision rate of a protoplanet of Earth size with a planetesimal of 100 m radius is, for example, enhanced by a factor of ${\sim} 10$. These effects play an essential role in the study of formation of solid cores of gas giant planets by the core accretion model.

Key words: solar system: formation

Offprint request: S. Inaba, sinaba@geo.titech.ac.jp

© ESO 2003