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Calculations show that accretion can drive the rapid growth of planets—small, dust-grain-size particles orbiting in the disk collide and stick together, with the larger collections growing more rapidly as they attract and capture smaller ones. Once these clumps grow to about 10 centimeters in size or so, they enter a perilous stage in their development. At that size, unless they can grow to larger than about 100 meters in diameter, they are subject to drag forces produced by friction with the gas in the disk—and their orbits can rapidly decay, plunging them into the host star. Therefore, these bodies must rapidly grow to nearly 1 kilometer in size in diameter to avoid a fiery fate. At this stage, they are considered planetesimals (the small chunks of solid matter—ice and dust particles—that you learned about in Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System ). Once they survive to those sizes, the largest survivors will continue to grow by accreting smaller planetesimals; ultimately, this process results in a few large planets.

If the growing planets reach a mass bigger than about 10 times the mass of Earth, their gravity is strong enough to capture and hold on to hydrogen gas that remains in the disk. At that point, they will grow in mass and radius rapidly, reaching giant planet dimensions. However, to do so requires that the rapidly evolving central star hasn’t yet driven away the gas in the disk with its increasingly vigorous wind (see the earlier section on Star Formation ). From observations, we see that the disk can be blown away within 10 million years, so growth of a giant planet must also be a very fast process, astronomically speaking.

Debris disks and shepherd planets

The dust around newly formed stars is gradually either incorporated into the growing planets in the newly forming planetary system or ejected through gravitational interactions with the planets into space. The dust will disappear after about 30 million years unless the disk is continually supplied with new material. Local comets and asteroids are the most likely sources of new dust. As the planet-size bodies grow, they stir up the orbits of smaller objects in the area. These small bodies collide at high speeds, shatter, and produce tiny particles of silicate dust and ices that can keep the disk supplied with the debris from these collisions.

Over several hundred million years, the comets and asteroids will gradually be reduced in number, the frequency of collisions will go down, and the supply of fresh dust will diminish. Remember that the heavy bombardment in the early solar system ended when the Sun was only about 500 million years old. Observations show that the dusty “debris disks” around stars also become largely undetectable by the time the stars reach an age of 400 to 500 million years. It is likely, however, that some small amount of cometary material will remain in orbit, much like our Kuiper belt, a flattened disk of comets outside the orbit of Neptune.

In a young planetary system, even if we cannot see the planets directly, the planets can concentrate the dust particles into clumps and arcs that are much larger than the planets themselves and more easily imaged. This is similar to how the tiny moons of Saturn shepherd the particles in the rings and produce large arcs and structures in Saturn’s rings.

Debris disks—many with just such clumps and arcs—have now been found around many stars, such as HL Tau , located about 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus ( [link] ). In some stars, the brightness of the rings varies with position; around other stars, there are bright arcs and gaps in the rings. The brightness indicates the relative concentration of dust, since what we are seeing is infrared (heat radiation) from the dust particles in the rings. More dust means more radiation.

Dust ring around a young star.

Near-Infrared Image of the Dust Ring Orbiting the Young Star HL Tauri. The ring surrounding the star is seen here nearly face-on, and thus appears nearly circular. There are many dark gaps in the rings, similar to the appearance of the rings of Saturn. These gaps reveal the presence of emerging planetary bodies forming in the disk around HL Tauri.
This image was made by ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array) at a wavelength of 1.3 millimeters and shows the young star HL Tau and its protoplanetary disk. It reveals multiple rings and gaps that indicate the presence of emerging planets, which are sweeping their orbits clear of dust and gas. (credit: modification of work by ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

Key concepts and summary

Observational evidence shows that most protostars are surrounded by disks with large-enough diameters and enough mass (as much as 10% that of the Sun) to form planets. After a few million years, the inner part of the disk is cleared of dust, and the disk is then shaped like a donut with the protostar centered in the hole—something that can be explained by the formation of planets in that inner zone. Around a few older stars, we see disks formed from the debris produced when small bodies (comets and asteroids) collide with each other. The distribution of material in the rings of debris disks is probably determined by shepherd planets, just as Saturn’s shepherd moons affect the orbits of the material in its rings. Protoplanets that grow to be 10 times the mass of Earth or bigger while there is still considerable gas in their disk can then capture more of that gas and become giant planets like Jupiter in the solar system.

Questions & Answers

Currently, I'm studying in 10th grade. What should I do after my 10th so that I can get an astronomy career?
Chaya Reply
try jee exam and achieve a good score in jee advance to join in IIST(Space research institute)
Sri
okay.. thanks
Chaya
this famous person was the first to recognise earthshine on the moin
Rajan Reply
Leonardo Da Vinci.....
Adam
what is string theory?
sakshi Reply
A Cosmological Theory Based On The Exsistence Of Cosmic Vibrating Strings.....
Adam
Does MIT have good astrophysics courses ?
priyanshu Reply
Probably The Best In The United States.....
Adam
But Don't Get Caught Up On Who's The Best, You Can Be The Next Noble Winning Astrophysicist.....
Adam
hmmm..........that's nice one....Adam had said.....
Gospel
How did ASTRONOMY helped you understand yourself ? 🤔
Hussain Reply
why do you want to study ASTRONOMY?
Hussain Reply
It is one of the natural sciences and therefore worth exploring. You are a part of the universe and it is a part of you. The sky is my classroom. (student of cosmology, Oxford Uni)
SuperNova
because everything in the space is just beautiful...interesting and worth studying and exploring...
Memo
I have been studying astrophysics an love it
Carla
I love to learn what makes up our lives an heavens an how it works there us so much more out there than books an our veiw of thw heavens can reveal
Carla
How did ASTRONOMY helped you understand yourself ?
Hussain
Because it proves the impossibles and the limitless.
Dark
It helped me realize that there are like countless possibilities in life and get all through it.
Dark
It honestly showed me to view the world in a balanced way. Because space beautiful and calm yet violent, and so is the world, and we should still help, but there will always be violent people much like violent astrophysical jets.
Da
Does anyone know where can I study astronomy in Spain? My budget is too low for traveling out there...
Valerian Reply
How long the duration was when the laws of physics became active after the big bang?And why the time is called plank's time?
Mostak Reply
how many galaxies in universe?
Shaikh Reply
10 to the power 11
Wwe
testing
Ahmad
thnx
Shaikh
if u can count all the sands on the beaches and on the deserts then u will know how much it will be.......some said more than 1,000,000,000 galaxies are there in our universe...
Gospel
it's ok bro
Wwe
I hope you will become a member of nasa
Wwe
just new in this area, from art background not science
Ahmad
what's ur name wwe
Shaikh
The Observable Universe Contains Between 200 Billion To 2 Trillion Galaxies.....
Adam
are u sure?
Caleb
It actually hasn't been proven, people have just made estimations.
Ariana
the thing is u can't count,maybe the our number system will collapse there...who knows?
Abdullah
What's the exact time when the laws of physics became active after the big bang ?
Mostak
Actually we still don't know the exact number of galaxies in the universe, since the universe is bigger than we can imagine and it is still expanding even bigger today than yesterday
Ismaee
we didn't actually find the exact number but may be it is around 100 billion
Smridhi
why this universe is expanding?
ATUL
Science Does Not Concern It Self With Why Questions, Science Is Geared For How And What Questions.....
Adam
Why Questions Form And Endless Loop.....
Adam
According to the universal law of cause and effect .any phenomenon that occur in this universe should have any reason , nothing happen without any reason.
ATUL
Can you tell me the expanding speed of this universe.
ATUL
yes that would be a great question to have answered what is the expanding speed of the universe?
Daijahrel
Remember that most of what you can see is light years away. We're looking back in time, we can never know the current nature of our observations, only glimpse the galaxies and stars as they once were. Strange but true, and a little sad.
SuperNova
Correct, That's Why Telescopes Are Like Time Machines, You See The Past.....
Adam
really telescope can see the past?....i meant everything is in its place, though it rotates or revolve or whatever it is.......but how can this telescope can see the past.....can we see how our Universe was created,how it formed out of it? thats my question to all of you guys can you plz tell me.
Gospel
Because We Dont See Any Object In Space As It Is, We See It As It Was..... Hope This Clears That Up For You.....
Adam
And One Day We Might Have A Telescope That Will Show Us The Big Bang.....
Adam
ok....... that will be nice one
Gospel
ok....... that will be nice one
Gospel
Travel at light speed in a spaceship at 186,000 miles every SECOND. At this speed it will take you 100,000 years just to cross our Milky Way galaxy, which is just a dot in the sky. Next stop, the Andromeda galaxy, after 2.5 million years, still in the Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, still a dot.
SuperNova
Pretty Much.....
Adam
there are nearly 200 million I suppose.
Amit
hi i need a telescope would you help mee
Nauman Reply
i can only advice you to go to some museum
Gospel
wher is it?
Nauman
but before that.......... i wanna know where are you from and from which state...and if you are nearer to that of the museum or will be able to go then.,.. i donot have any more words.
Gospel
What Do Plan To Observe?
Adam
sorry . i am from asia
Nauman
Check on amazon.Celeston telescopes are good for beginners.
priyanshu
can yoy introduce your self
Nauman
can you
Nauman
Asia...? from which country you belong into ...,,is it India or where?
Gospel
Do You Want A Telescope With ALot Of Maintenance Or Zero Maintenance?
Adam
pakistan
Nauman
with alot offf
Nauman
Any second hand online stores in your area? great for unused Christmas gifts etc..
Collins
So You Want A Newtonian Reflector?
Adam
hey guys I wanna ask you all that will it be safe or helpful to communicate with an intelligent civilization like are we safe ?
Samuel
Is the Orion Sky Quest XT6 a good Dobsonian?
TheDirtyGhost
Look for a Sky Watcher 130BKS, it has an upgraded dual speed 2" focuser. You can use 1.25" or 2" eyepieces with it and it is quite easy to pollinate using a simple visual collimating eyepiece. This scope is great and ready for prime focus astrophotography if you choose to go that route.
Robert
Sorry, spell check error. Pollinate should be collimate. lol
Robert
Dobsonians Require A Lot Of Maintenance, If You Don't Mind Cleaning And Collimating On A Regular Basis, Then Go Ahead A Dobsonian Puts Up Excellent Views Especially For Deep Space Objects..... Now If You Don't Want Constant Maintenance Then A Schmidt Cassegrain Might Be A Better Fit For You.....
Adam
So what i would put for that answer ?
Abdulla Reply
The largest observatory complex in the world is on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on Earth. Whatare some factors astronomers consider when selecting an observatory site? Don’t forget practical ones.Should astronomers, for example, consider building an observatory on Denali (Mount McKinley) or MountEverest?
Abdulla Reply
i need help on the the second part
Abdulla
Should astronomers for example considered building an observatory on Denali (Mount Mckinley) or MountEverest ?
Abdulla
I would take into consideration. climate weather pattern.
basim
also, could an establishment be built and be able to sustain years of being beaten by the weather?
basim
so far Mount Everest to my understanding is a difficult mountain
basim
it is because of light pollution in the cities that the observatories are situated in extremely remote areas.
Ashish
Everest ist the tallest mountain
Paul
how far us milky way galaxy?
ShowsSpy Reply
oh man
madison
We are part of the Milky Way Galaxy. We are within it, so it's not really away from us. Our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter. The nearest big galaxy is Andromeda, around 2 million lightyears away.
Jignesh
its 200,000 light years
Gospel
Where is Rice University located?
Amanda Reply
it is in your vagina
world
that couldn't be any more wrong 😂😂
jay
what even is this conversation😂😂!?
Herrera
Show Some Class.....
Adam
Houston, Texas.....
Adam
Houston
Preston
what is the first step to take as far as getting into the field of astronomy?
john Reply
probably by being type 1or2 civilization...launching more telescopes into space...and stepping on mars. probably.
Memo
John, the first step is to want to focus a large part of your life studying, researching and investigating the universe... Including the planet we know the most about. Do well in math, physics, and chemistry, and attend a college that either owns astronomical equipment or facilities and has courses.
Vic

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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