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Alan Boss: The Gas Giants We Have Yet to Find

2 Oct 2019, 18:54 UTC
Alan Boss: The Gas Giants We Have Yet to Find
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The news of a gas giant of half Jupiter’s mass around a small red dwarf, GJ 3512 b, continues to resonate. It goes to what has become a well enshrined controversy among those who follow planet formation models. While core accretion is widely accepted as a way of building planets, gravitational instability has remained an option. We are not talking about replacing one model with another, but rather saying that there may be various roads to planet formation among the gas giants. In any case, GJ 3512 b makes a strong case that we have much to learn.
When I think about gravitational instability, I go back to the work of Alan Boss (Carnegie Institution for Science), as he has long investigated the concept. I learned about it from his papers and his subsequent book The Crowded Universe (Basic Books, 2009). Here’s how Boss describes it there:
Proponents of the top-down mechanism… envision clumps of gas and dust forming directly out of the planet-forming disk as a result of the self-gravity of the disk gas. The clumps would result from the intersections of random waves sloshing around the disk, waves that look much like the arms in spiral galaxies such ...

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