Reduced gas accretion on super-Earths and ice giants
Laboratoire Lagrange, UMR7293, Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Boulevard de l’Observatoire, 06304 Nice Cedex 4, France
Received: 21 April 2017
Accepted: 1 August 2017
A large fraction of giant planets have gaseous envelopes that are limited to about 10% of their total mass budget. Such planets are present in the solar system (Uranus, Neptune) and are frequently observed in short periods around other stars (the so-called super-Earths). In contrast to these observations, theoretical calculations based on the evolution of hydrostatic envelopes argue that such low-mass envelopes cannot be maintained around cores exceeding five Earth masses. Instead, under nominal disk conditions, these planets would acquire massive envelopes through runaway gas accretion within the lifetime of the protoplanetary disk. In this work we show that planetary envelopes are not in hydrostatic balance, which slows down envelope growth. A series of 3D global, radiative hydrodynamical simulations reveal a steady-state gas flow, which enters through the poles and exits in the disk midplane. Gas is pushed through the outer envelope in about ten orbital timescales. In regions of the disk that are not significantly dust-depleted, envelope accretion onto cores of about five Earth masses can get stalled as the gas flow enters the deep interior. Accreted solids sublimate deep in the convective interior, but small opacity-providing grains are trapped in the flow and do not settle, which further prevents rapid envelope accretion. The transition to runaway gas accretion can however be reached when cores grow larger than typical super-Earths, beyond 15 Earth masses, and preferably when disk opacities are below κ = 1 cm2/g. These findings offer an explanation for the typical low-mass envelopes around the cores of super-Earths.
Key words: planets and satellites: formation / planets and satellites: gaseous planets / hydrodynamics / methods: numerical
© ESO, 2017