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Planets could be formed by interstellar objects like ’Oumuamua

24 Mar 2019, 11:30 UTC
Planets could be formed by interstellar objects like ’Oumuamua
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Interstellar objects like the recently-discovered ’Oumuamua could act as the seeds from which planets grow around young stars. That is the conclusion of Susanne Pfalzner of the Jülich Supercomputing Centre in Germany, and Michele Bannister of Queen’s University Belfast – who have modelled how these exotic objects could give the planet-formation process a jump start.

Theories of planet formation describe how dust in discs around nascent stars accretes into ever larger clumps, eventually merging to become protoplanets. These models suggest that this process will take many millions of years and they do not provide clear reasons why collisions between clumps do not bring the process to a halt well before protoplanets form. As a result, these theories are at odds with observations of giant planets around stars that are just a million years old – leaving astronomers asking how did these planets grow so fast?
Pfalzner and Bannister’s answer is that various barriers to speedy planet growth could be bypassed if planet-forming discs were seeded by ’Oumuamua-sized objects. Their idea seems reasonable because such objects should be extremely common. Based upon the presence of ’Oumuamua in the solar system, and the constraints placed upon the number of similar objects by ...

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