Protoplanetary disks and planet formation: A computational perspective
Backus, Isaac Jonathan
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In this thesis I present my research on the early stages of planet formation. Using advanced computational modeling techniques, I study global gas and gravitational dynamics in proto- planetary disks (PPDs) on length scales from the radius of Jupiter to the size of the solar system. In that environment, I investigate the formation of gas giants and the migration, enhancement, and distribution of small solids—the precursors to planetesimals and gas giant cores. I examine numerical techniques used in planet formation and PPD modeling, especially methods for generating initial conditions (ICs) in these unstable, chaotic systems. Disk simulation outcomes may depend strongly on ICs, which may explain results in the literature. I present the largest suite of high resolution PPD simulations to-date and argue that direct fragmentations of PPDs around M-Dwarfs is a plausible path to rapidly forming gas giants. I implement dust physics to track the migration of centimeter and smaller dust grains in very high resolution PPD simulations. While current dust methods are slow, with strict resolution and/or time-stepping requirements, and have some serious numerical issues, we can still demonstrate that dust does not concentrate at the pressure maxima of spiral arms, an indication that spiral features observed in the dust component are at least as well resolved in the gas. Additionally, coherent spiral arms do not limit dust settling. We suggest a novel mechanism for disk fragmentation at large radii driven by dust accretion from the surrounding nebula. We also investigate self induced dust traps, a mechanism which may help explain the growth of solids beyond meter sizes. We argue that current apparent demonstrations of this mechanism may be due to numerical artifacts and require further investigation.
- Physics