Erosion and the limits to planetesimal growth [EPA]

The coagulation of microscopic dust into planetesimals is the first step towards planet formation. The size and shape of the growing aggregates determine the efficiency of this early growth. It has been proposed that fluffy ice aggregates can grow very efficiently, suffering less from the bouncing and radial drift barriers. While the collision velocity between icy aggregates of similar size is thought to stay below the fragmentation threshold, they may nonetheless lose mass from collisions with much smaller projectiles. We investigate the effect of these erosive collisions on the ability of porous ice aggregates to cross the radial drift barrier. We develop a Monte Carlo code that calculates the evolution of the growing aggregates, while resolving the entire mass distribution at all times. The aggregate’s porosity is treated independently of its mass, and is determined by collisions, gas compaction, and eventually self-gravity compaction. For erosion threshold velocities of 20-40 m/s, high-velocity collisions with small projectiles prevent the largest aggregates from growing when they start to drift. In these cases, our local simulations result in a steady-state distribution, with the majority of the dust mass in particles with Stokes numbers close to unity. Only for the highest erosion threshold considered (60 m/s), do porous aggregates manage to cross the radial drift barrier in the inner 10 AU of MMSN-like disks. Erosive collisions are more effective in limiting the growth than fragmentary collisions between similar-size particles. Conceivably, erosion limits the growth before the radial drift barrier, although the robustness of this statement depends on (uncertain) material properties of icy aggregates. If erosion inhibits planetesimal formation through direct sticking, the sea of ${\sim}10^9$ g, highly porous particles appears well-suited for triggering streaming instability.

Read this paper on arXiv…

S. Krijt, C. Ormel, C. Dominik, et. al.
Fri, 12 Dec 14

Comments: 16 pages, 14 figures, accepted for publication in A&A