Monday, May 01, 2006

Oligarchic Growth of the large planets: from systemic

Wonderously descriptive imagery of the earliest moments of the gas giants by Greg Laughlin at systemic:

The atmosphere bulks up fast. Liberated hydrogen and helium gas bubbles up from the layers of denser materials in the interior. The oligarch passes several Earth masses in size, and grows massive enough to grab gas directly from the disk. Meanwhile, new planetesimals are arriving all the time. Kilometer-sized projectiles streak through the exosphere, exploding as they slam into the atmosphere. The unsettled skies are continuously ablaze with meteors. The temperature rises, becoming so warm that the atmosphere glows a dull coal-red in the darkness of the nebula.

When the growing oligarch, now a full-fledged protoplanet, reaches seven or ten times the mass of the Earth, it is pulling in gas as fast as it can. The atmosphere has swelled and bloated to a thickness of literally hundreds of thousands of kilometers. The gas glows fire-engine orange, and pours infrared light out into space. This radiation is accompanied by slow settling of the lower layers, providing room at the top for more gas to flow in.

Oligarchic Growth

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