Decimetre dust aggregates in protoplanetary discs
Institut für Planetologie, Wilhelm-Klemm-Str. 10, 48149 Münster, Germany e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 29 June 2009
The growth of planetesimals is an essential step in planet formation. Decimetre-size dust agglomerates mark a transition point in this growth process. In laboratory experiments we simulated the formation, evolution, and properties of decimetre-scale dusty bodies in protoplanetary discs. Small sub-mm size dust aggregates consisting of micron-size SiO2 particles randomly interacted with dust targets of varying initial conditions in a continuous sequence of independent collisions. Impact velocities were 7.7 m/s on average and in the range expected for collisions with decimetre bodies in protoplanetary discs. The targets all evolved by forming dust crusts with up to several cm thickness and a unique filling factor of 31% ± 3%. A part of the projectiles sticks directly. In addition, some projectile fragments slowly return to the target by gravity. All initially porous parts of the surface, i.e. built from the slowly returning fragments, are compacted and firmly attached to the underlying dust layers by the subsequent impacts. Growth is possible at impact angles from 0° (central collision) to 70°. No growth occurs at steeper dust surfaces. We measured the velocity, angle, and size distribution of collision fragments. The average restitution coefficient is 3.8% or 0.29 m/s ejection velocity. Ejecta sizes are comparable to the projectile sizes. The high filling factor is close to the most compact configuration of dust aggregates by local compression (~33%). This implies that the history of the surface formation and target growth is completely erased. In view of this, the filling factor of 31% seems to be a universal value in the collision experiments of all self-consistently evolving targets at the given impact velocities. We suggest that decimetre and probably larger bodies can simply be characterised by one single filling factor. While gravity dominates re-accretion in the experiments, small fragments will be re-accreted as well in protoplanetary discs by gas drag at the given low ejection velocities. The accretion efficiency in planetesimal growth is model dependent. However, a small fraction of small particles re-accreted by gas flow or direct sticking readily allows growth of dusty bodies in protoplanetary discs in the decimetre range.
Key words: solar system: formation / accretion, accretion disks / methods: laboratory / planets and satellites: formation / planetary systems: formation / planetary systems: protoplanetary disks
© ESO, 2009