Tidal downsizing

Last updated

Tidal downsizing is a hypothetical mechanism for the formation of planets. [1] [2] The process begins with the formation of large clumps of gas, of roughly 10 Jupiter masses, via gravitational instability in the outer parts of the protoplanetary disk. The clumps migrate inward due to gravitational interactions with the gas disk. Solid grains within the clump collide and grow and settle toward the center forming a massive core. The clump is disrupted due to tidal forces or heating from the star when it approaches within a few AU of the star leaving behind a smaller object. Depending on the extent and timing of the mass loss the remnant may be a terrestrial planet, an ice giant or a gas giant. [3]

Jupiter Fifth planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two-and-a-half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter and Saturn are gas giants; the other two giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants. Jupiter has been known to astronomers since antiquity. It is named after the Roman god Jupiter. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter can reach an apparent magnitude of −2.94, bright enough for its reflected light to cast shadows, and making it on average the third-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.

The key idea in explaining the way in which structures evolve in the universe is gravitational instability. If material is to be brought together to form structures, then a long-range force is required, and gravity is the only known possibility. The basic picture is as follows.

Protoplanetary disk rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas surrounding a young newly formed star

A protoplanetary disk is a rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas and dust surrounding a young newly formed star, a T Tauri star, or Herbig Ae/Be star. The protoplanetary disk may also be considered an accretion disk for the star itself, because gases or other material may be falling from the inner edge of the disk onto the surface of the star. This process should not be confused with the accretion process thought to build up the planets themselves. Externally illuminated photo-evaporating protoplanetary disks are called proplyds.

Related Research Articles

Galaxy formation and evolution The processes that formed a heterogeneous universe from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the way galaxies change over time

The study of galaxy formation and evolution is concerned with the processes that formed a heterogeneous universe from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the way galaxies change over time, and the processes that have generated the variety of structures observed in nearby galaxies. Galaxy formation is hypothesized to occur from structure formation theories, as a result of tiny quantum fluctuations in the aftermath of the Big Bang. The simplest model in general agreement with observed phenomena is the Lambda-CDM model—that is, that clustering and merging allows galaxies to accumulate mass, determining both their shape and structure.

Star formation is the process by which dense regions within molecular clouds in interstellar space, sometimes referred to as "stellar nurseries" or "star-forming regions", collapse and form stars. As a branch of astronomy, star formation includes the study of the interstellar medium (ISM) and giant molecular clouds (GMC) as precursors to the star formation process, and the study of protostars and young stellar objects as its immediate products. It is closely related to planet formation, another branch of astronomy. Star formation theory, as well as accounting for the formation of a single star, must also account for the statistics of binary stars and the initial mass function. Most stars do not form in isolation but as part of a group of stars referred as star clusters or stellar associations.

Nebular hypothesis astronomical theory that the Solar System formed from nebulous material

The nebular hypothesis is the most widely accepted model in the field of cosmogony to explain the formation and evolution of the Solar System. It suggests that the Solar System is formed from the nebulous material. The theory was developed by Immanuel Kant and published in his Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels, published in 1755. Originally applied to the Solar System, the process of planetary system formation is now thought to be at work throughout the Universe. The widely accepted modern variant of the nebular hypothesis is the solar nebular disk model (SNDM) or solar nebular model. It offered explanations for a variety of properties of the Solar System, including the nearly circular and coplanar orbits of the planets, and their motion in the same direction as the Sun's rotation. Some elements of the original nebular hypothesis are echoed in modern theories of planetary formation, but most elements have been superseded.

Planetary system set of non-stellar objects in orbit around a star

A planetary system is a set of gravitationally bound non-stellar objects in or out of orbit around a star or star system. Generally speaking, systems with one or more planets constitute a planetary system, although such systems may also consist of bodies such as dwarf planets, asteroids, natural satellites, meteoroids, comets, planetesimals and circumstellar disks. The Sun together with its planetary system, which includes Earth, is known as the Solar System. The term exoplanetary system is sometimes used in reference to other planetary systems.

In physical cosmology, a protogalaxy, which could also be called a "primeval galaxy", is a cloud of gas which is forming into a galaxy. It is believed that the rate of star formation during this period of galactic evolution will determine whether a galaxy is a spiral or elliptical galaxy; a slower star formation tends to produce a spiral galaxy. The smaller clumps of gas in a protogalaxy form into stars.

Photoevaporation denotes the process where energetic radiation ionises gas and causes it to disperse away from the ionising source. This typically refers to an astrophysical context where ultraviolet radiation from hot stars acts on clouds of material such as molecular clouds, protoplanetary disks, or planetary atmospheres.

Hot Jupiter planet type

Hot Jupiters are a class of gas giant exoplanets that are inferred to be physically similar to Jupiter but that have very short orbital periods. The close proximity to their stars and high surface-atmosphere temperatures resulted in the moniker "hot Jupiters".

Planetary migration astronomical phenomenon when a planet or other stellar satellite interacts with a disk of gas or planetesimals, resulting in the alteration of the satellites orbital parameters, especially its semi-major axis

Planetary migration occurs when a planet or other stellar satellite interacts with a disk of gas or planetesimals, resulting in the alteration of the satellite's orbital parameters, especially its semi-major axis. Planetary migration is the most likely explanation for hot Jupiters: exoplanets with jovian masses but orbits of only a few days. The generally accepted theory of planet formation from a protoplanetary disk predicts such planets cannot form so close to their stars, as there is insufficient mass at such small radii and the temperature is too high to allow the formation of rocky or icy planetesimals.

Accretion (astrophysics) The accumulation of particles into a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter

In astrophysics, accretion is the accumulation of particles into a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter, typically gaseous matter, in an accretion disk. Most astronomical objects, such as galaxies, stars, and planets, are formed by accretion processes.

Ice giant giant planet primarily composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium

An ice giant is a giant planet composed mainly of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, such as oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur. There are two ice giants in the Solar System: Uranus and Neptune.

Herbig Ae/Be star young star of spectral types A or B

A Herbig Ae/Be star (HAeBe) is a pre-main-sequence star – a young (<10Myr) star of spectral types A or B. These stars are still embedded in gas-dust envelopes and are sometimes accompanied by circumstellar disks. Hydrogen and calcium emission lines are observed in their spectra. They are 2-8 Solar mass (M) objects, still existing in the star formation stage and approaching the main sequence. In the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram these stars are located to the right of the main sequence. They are named after the American astronomer George Herbig, who first distinguished them from other stars in 1960. The original Herbig criteria were:

Formation and evolution of the Solar System Formation of the Solar System by gravitational collapse of a molecular cloud and subsequent geological history

The formation and evolution of the Solar System began 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disk out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed.

Exoplanetology, or exoplanetary science, is an integrated field of astronomical science dedicated to the search for and study of exoplanets. It employs an interdisciplinary approach which includes astrobiology, astrophysics, astronomy, astrochemistry, astrogeology, geochemistry, and planetary science.

Habitability of natural satellites

The habitability of natural satellites is a measure of the potential of natural satellites to have environments hospitable to life. Habitable environments do not necessarily harbor life. Planetary habitability is an emerging study which is considered important to astrobiology for several reasons, foremost being that natural satellites are predicted to greatly outnumber planets and that it is hypothesized that habitability factors are likely to be similar to those of planets. There are, however, key environmental differences which have a bearing on moons as potential sites for extraterrestrial life.

Retrograde and prograde motion astronomy

Retrograde motion in astronomy is, in general, orbital or rotational motion of an object in the direction opposite the rotation of its primary, that is the central object. It may also describe other motions such as precession or nutation of the object's rotational axis. Prograde or direct motion is motion in the same direction as the primary rotates. Rotation is determined by an inertial frame of reference, such as distant fixed stars. However, retrograde and prograde can also refer to an object other than the primary if so described.

This glossary of astronomy is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to astronomy and cosmology, their sub-disciplines, and related fields. Astronomy is concerned with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth. The field of astronomy features an extensive vocabulary and a significant amount of jargon.

HD 142527 star in the constellation of Lupus

HD 142527 is a star in the constellation of Lupus. It is notable for its protoplanetary disk and its discovery has helped refine models of planet formation.

In pebble accretion the accretion of objects ranging from centimeters up to meters in diameter onto planetesimals in a protoplanetary disk is enhanced by aerodynamic drag. This drag reduces the relative velocity of pebbles as they pass by larger bodies, preventing some from escaping the body's gravity. These pebbles are then accreted by the body after spiraling or settling toward its surface. This process increases the cross section over which the large bodies can accrete material, accelerating their growth. The rapid growth of the planetesimals via pebble accretion allows for the formation of giant planet cores in the outer Solar System before the dispersal of the gas disk. A reduction in the size of pebbles as they lose water ice after crossing the ice line and a declining density of gas with distance from the sun slow the rates of pebble accretion in the inner Solar System resulting in smaller terrestrial planets, a small mass of Mars and a low mass asteroid belt.

In planetary science a streaming instability is a hypothetical mechanism for the formation of planetesimals in which the drag felt by solid particles orbiting in a gas disk leads to their spontaneous concentration into clumps which can gravitationally collapse. Small initial clumps increase the orbital velocity of the gas, slowing radial drift locally, leading to their growth as they are joined by faster drifting isolated particles. Massive filaments form that reach densities sufficient for the gravitational collapse into planetesimals the size of large asteroids, bypassing a number of barriers to the traditional formation mechanisms. The formation of streaming instabilities requires solids that are moderately coupled to the gas and a local solid to gas ratio of one or greater. The growth of solids large enough to become moderately coupled to the gas is more likely outside the ice line and in regions with limited turbulence. An initial concentration of solids with respect to the gas is necessary to suppress turbulence sufficiently to allow the solid to gas ratio to reach greater than one at the mid-plane. A wide variety of mechanisms to selectively remove gas or to concentrate solids have been proposed. In the inner Solar System the formation of streaming instabilities requires a greater initial concentration of solids or the growth of solid beyond the size of chondrules.


  1. Wilkins, Alasdair. "Why Earth might have started out as a gas giant". Gizmodo . Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  2. Redd, Nola Taylor. "Rocky planets could have been born as gas giants". Phys.org . Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  3. Nayakshin, Sergie (2010). "Formation of planets by tidal downsizing of giant planet embryos". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters. 408 (1): L36-l40. arXiv: 1007.4159 Lock-green.svg. Bibcode:2010MNRAS.408L..36N. doi:10.1111/j.1745-3933.2010.00923.x.