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Benefits of a ‘Snow Line’ Neptune

5 Nov 2019, 12:04 UTC
Benefits of a ‘Snow Line’ Neptune
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The formation of planets like Neptune under the core accretion model involves a protoplanetary core that reaches around 10 Earth masses before beginning to pull in surrounding gas, the latter being a runaway process that quickly builds the atmosphere around the object. Core accretion is most efficient at doing this just outside the snow line, but if we want to understand and test the theory, we need to know a lot more about how planets are distributed in this region.
And that’s a problem, because recent microlensing surveys have found that planets like Neptune are most abundant much more distant from their host stars. Outward migration can account for such worlds, but we know little about exoplanets that form at the snow line, which is where the condensation of ices can factor into the emergence of a new world.
Is this just an artifact of our still evolving microlensing detection techniques? Perhaps, and exceptions to the rule can therefore be helpful. Recent work that began with a discovery by a Japanese amateur astronomer has now blossomed into a full-scale study of a snow line Neptune around a star that, unlike most viewed by microlensing, is actually fairly close. The ...

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