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Anders Johansen. Profile picture.

Anders Johansen


Anders Johansen. Profile picture.

The fate of planetesimals formed at planetary gap edges


  • Linn E.J. Eriksson
  • Thomas Ronnet
  • Anders Johansen

Summary, in English

The presence of rings and gaps in protoplanetary disks are often ascribed to planet-disk interactions, where dust and pebbles are trapped at the edges of planetary-induced gas gaps. Recent works have shown that these are likely sites for planetesimal formation via the streaming instability. Given the large amount of planetesimals that potentially form at gap edges, we address the question of their fate and their ability to radially transport solids in protoplanetary disks. We performed a series of N-body simulations of planetesimal orbits, taking into account the effect of gas drag and mass loss via ablation. We considered two planetary systems: one that is akin to the young Solar System and another inspired by the structures observed in the protoplanetary disk around HL Tau. In both systems, the proximity to the gap-opening planets results in large orbital excitations, causing the planetesimals to leave their birth locations and spread out across the disk soon after formation. We find that collisions between pairs of planetesimals are rare and should not affect the outcome of our simulations. Collisions with planets occur for ~1% of the planetesimals in the Solar System and for ~20% of the planetesimals in the HL Tau system. Planetesimals that end up on eccentric orbits interior of ~10 au experience efficient ablation and lose all mass before they reach the innermost disk region. In our nominal Solar System simulation, with a stellar gas accretion rate of á 0 = 10-7 M yr-1 and α = 10-2, we find that 70% of the initial planetesimal mass has been ablated after 500 kyr. Since the protoplanets are located further away from the star in the HL Tau system, the ablation rate is lower and only 11% of the initial planetesimal mass has been ablated after 1 Myr using the same disk parameters. The ablated material consist of a mixture of solid grains and vaporized ices, where a large fraction of the vaporized ices re-condense to form solid ice. Assuming that the solid grains and ices grow to pebbles in the disk midplane, this results in a pebble flux of ~10-100 M Myr-1 through the inner disk. This occurred in the Solar System at a time so early in its evolution that there is not likely to be any record of it. Our results demonstrate that scattered planetesimals can carry a significant flux of solids past planetary-induced gaps in young and massive protoplanetary disks.


  • Lund Observatory
  • eSSENCE: The e-Science Collaboration

Publishing year





Astronomy and Astrophysics



Document type

Journal article


EDP Sciences


  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


  • Planet-disk interactions
  • Planets and satellites: formation
  • Protoplanetary disks




  • ISSN: 0004-6361