Computer models help astronomers understand how planets form.
August 26, 2006
Astronomers weren't around when the solar system formed, but ever-more-sophisticated computer simulations give them an opportunity to explore young planetary environments. In "How do you make a giant exoplanet?" author Alan P. Boss suggests that the most widely accepted model of planet formation, core accretion, seems to have some shortcomings. Notably, upper limits to Jupiter's core mass, gleaned from Galileo spacecraft data, seem smaller than theory suggests. Moreover, models have difficulty forming planets like Uranus and Neptune in the few million years protoplanetary disks are thought to endure.