Planets such as Jupiter are deemed to be very common in the Universe. But models of planetary system evolution to date have not managed to explain how these gas giants endure beyond the embryonic stage.
As per these models, gas giants ought to migrate inwards and ultimately fall into their host star within about 100,000 years.
New computer simulations, defined in the journal Nature, indicate that planetary embryos heat their neighboring environments, opposing the forces dragging them into their stars.
One of the study’s authors Dr Frédéric Masset of the National Autonomous University of Mexico said, “We have found a powerful ingredient that counters inward migration.”
Planets are formed from protoplanetary circles of gas, dust and rock fragments called planetesimals that circle around new forming stars.
Although they have masses larger than Earth, gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn are generally composed of huge gas envelopes around a small rock core, which could be not much larger than the diameter of the Earth.
“For habitually 30 years it’s been known that planets forming in the protoplanetary disk are imperiled to very strong tidal forces,” Masset says.
“The embryonic planet creates a spiral tail in the protoplanetary disk. And due to rather subtle asymmetries, the net torque of this wake causes planets to lose angular momentum, causing their orbits to decay in towards the star.”
Nevertheless, according to Masset and colleagues’ model, heat generated by impacting material developing onto planetary embryos is sufficiently enough to heat up the adjoining protoplanetary disk.
“This dramatically alters the force felt by the planet and may pause or reverse migration,” says Masset.
As the protoplanetary disk is being heated, regions of lower density are produced immediately in front of and behind the planet as it orbits the star.
Masset strongly considers the model also assist in explaining the architecture of our own solar system.
“You can speculate that the embryos that were in the region of Mars and the asteroid belt contributed to form the protoplanets that migrated outwards and provided the rocky cores of Jupiter and Saturn,” says Masset.