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Tim Kendall's Extreme Astrophysics

Implications of an upper mass bound on exoplanets

22 Jan 2018, 21:36 UTC
Implications of an upper mass bound on exoplanets
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Image: Illustration of a massive exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star. A new paper, accepted by the Astrophysical Journal, is by K. Schlaufman (Johns Hopkins Univ.), in arXiv today and clarifies a question which I attempted to address in a recent post, here; the findings of an earlier paper (to which I drew attention in that post) are reinforced. Observational evidence is combined with insights from theory to address whether a boundary exists between planets which form like gas-giant planets through core accretion, or like stars, through gravitational instability. From the abstract of today’s paper (abridged):

Celestial bodies with a mass of M ~ 10 M_Jup have been found orbiting nearby stars. It is unknown whether these objects formed like gas-giant planets through core accretion or like stars through gravitational instability. I show that objects with M <~ 4 M_Jup orbit metal-rich solar-type dwarf stars, a property associated with core accretion. Objects with M >~ 10 M_Jup do not share this property. This transition is coincident with a minimum in the occurrence rate of such objects, suggesting that the maximum mass of a celestial body formed through core accretion like a planet is less than 10 M_Jup. Consequently, objects with M ...

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