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Thread: Very large planets

  1. #1 Very large planets 
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    Reading through this article:


    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/arc.../2010/17/full/


    it was pretty much as expected but it got me thinking. There are two planets here of 10 and 14 Jupiter masses. There seems to be a fair number of such massive planets about.

    We know that Jupiter and Saturn helped shape the early solar system in that planets and smaller bodies were sling-shoted inward and outwards as the solar system sorted itself out, and that the large planets hoovered up lots of loose debris, even possibly moons and maybe even the odd small planet.

    What if instead of Jupiter, there had been a planet 12 times as massive. Surely it would have changed totally the outcome of the solar system, with small planets being swallowed, others being literally thrown into the sun while others ended up far, far away from the sun, maybe even leaving it's influence? Would there still be an asteroid belt?


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  3. #2  
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    It's hard to say, especially since not everyone agrees on how the asteroid belt was formed. I don't think the solar system would have been quite the same, not necessarily because the gravitational effects but mainly because I don't think there would have been enough material to form too much stuff other than that big Jupiter-like planet.


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  4. #3  
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    I was allowing for the fact that there would have been a lot more mass about in the early solar system since there is far too little even now to form such a body from what we have.
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    I think the dynamics of the early accretion disk are fairly different in this case, so . Unfortunately, this is one thing we cannot quite test yet because there is a lot of observation bias -- our observational techniques don't allow us to observe distant solar systems like ours.

    So yes, I think that where such masses are taken to form a planetary nebula, the outcome is significantly different. I don't think there would have been room for an asteroid belt. Anything that would try to orbit something that large would likely be subjected to significant tidal forces at modest distances, and anything not getting swallowed is either far, far away, or ejected at the periphery of the accretion disk due to the large speeds involved.

    Nonetheless, to the best of my knowledge, this is one of the grey areas of astrophysics.
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