Pebbles versus planetesimals

Jungo, N.; Burn, R.; Coleman, G. A. L.; Alibert, Y.; Benz, W. (2020). Pebbles versus planetesimals. Astronomy and astrophysics, 640, A21. EDP Sciences 10.1051/0004-6361/202038042

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In the core accretion scenario, a massive core forms first and then accretes an envelope. When discussing how this core forms some divergences appear. First scenarios of planet formation predict the accretion of km-sized bodies, called planetesimals, while more recent works suggest growth by accretion of pebbles, which are cm-sized objects. These two accretion models are often discussed separately and we aim here at comparing the outcomes of the two models with identical initial conditions. We use two distinct codes: one computing planetesimal accretion, the other pebble accretion. Using a population synthesis approach, we compare planet simulations and study the impact of the two solid accretion models, focussing on the formation of single planets. We find that the planetesimal model predicts the formation of more giant planets, while the pebble accretion model forms more super-Earth mass planets. This is due to the pebble isolation mass concept, which prevents planets formed by pebble accretion to accrete gas efficiently before reaching Miso. This translates into a population of planets that are not heavy enough to accrete a consequent envelope but that are in a mass range where type I migration is very efficient. We also find higher gas mass fractions for a given core mass for the pebble model compared to the planetesimal one caused by luminosity differences. This also implies planets with lower densities which could be confirmed observationally. Focusing on giant planets, we conclude that the sensitivity of their formation differs: for the pebble accretion model, the time at which the embryos are formed, as well as the period over which solids are accreted strongly impact the results, while for the planetesimal model it depends on the planetesimal size and on the splitting in the amount of solids available to form planetesimals.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences > Theoretical Astrophysics and Planetary Science (TAPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > NCCR PlanetS

UniBE Contributor:

Jungo, Natacha, Burn, Remo, Coleman, Gavin, Alibert, Yann Daniel Pierre, Benz, Willy


500 Science
500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




EDP Sciences




Janine Jungo

Date Deposited:

10 Mar 2021 11:17

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:48

Publisher DOI:





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