Status Report

The Formation of Uranus and Neptune: Fine Tuning in Core Accretion

By SpaceRef Editor
August 4, 2017
Filed under , ,

Renata Frelikh, Ruth A. Murray-Clay
(Submitted on 2 Aug 2017)

Uranus and Neptune are ice giants with \sim 15% atmospheres by mass, placing them in an intermediate category between rocky planets and gas giants. These atmospheres are too massive to have been primarily outgassed, yet they never underwent runaway gas accretion. The ice giants never reached critical core mass (M_\text{crit}) in a full gas disk, yet their cores are \gtrsim M_\text{crit}, suggesting that their envelopes were mainly accreted at the end of the disk lifetime. Pebble accretion calls into question traditional slow atmospheric growth during this phase. We show that the full-sized ice giants predominantly accreted gas from a disk depleted by at least a factor of \sim 100. Such a disk dissipates in \lesssim 10^5 years. Why would both cores stay sub-critical for the entire \sim Myr disk lifetime, only to reach M_\text{crit} in the final 10^5 years? This is fine tuned. Ice giants in the outer disk have atmospheric mass fractions comparable to the disk gas-to-solid ratio during the bulk of their gas accretion. This point in disk evolution coincides with a dynamical upheaval: the gas loses its ability to efficiently damp the cores’ random velocities, allowing them to be gravitationally excited by Jupiter and Saturn. We suggest that the ice giants’ cores began growing on closer-in orbits (staying sub-critical), and migrated out during this dynamical instability. There, their orbits circularized after accreting much of their mass in solids. Finally, they accreted their envelopes from a depleted nebula, where the sparseness of feeding zone gas prevented runaway.

Comments:    Accepted for publication in AJ, 10 pages, 3 figures
Subjects:    Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as:    arXiv:1708.00862 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1708.00862v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Renata Frelikh [view email]
[v1] Wed, 2 Aug 2017 18:00:00 GMT (416kb,D)

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