On the orbital evolution and growth of protoplanets embedded in a gaseous disc


We present a new computation of the linear tidal interaction of a protoplanetary core with a thin gaseous disc in which it is fully embedded. For the first time a discussion of the orbital evolution of cores with eccentricity (e) significantly larger than the gas-disc scale height to radius ratio (H/r) is given. We find that the direction of orbital migration reverses for e>1.1H/r. This occurs as a result of the orbital crossing of resonances in the disc that do not overlap the orbit when the eccentricity is very small. Simple expressions giving approximate fits to the eccentricity damping rate and the orbital migration rate are presented. We go on to calculate the rate of increase of the mean eccentricity for a system of protoplanetary cores due to dynamical relaxation. By equating the eccentricity damping time-scale with the dynamical relaxation time-scale we deduce that an equilibrium between eccentricity damping and excitation through scattering is attained on a 10^3 to 10^4 yr time-scale, at 1au. The equilibrium thickness of the protoplanet distribution is such that it is generally well confined within the gas disc. By use of a three dimensional N-body code we simulate the evolution of a system of protoplanetary cores, incorporating our eccentricity damping and migration rates. Assuming that collisions lead to agglomeration, we find that the vertical confinement of the protoplanet distribution permits cores to build up from 0.1 to 1 earth mass in only ~10^4 yr, within 1au. The time-scale required to achieve this is comparable to the migration time-scale. We deduce that it is not possible to build up a massive enough core to form a gas giant planet before orbital migration ultimately results in the preferential delivery of all such bodies to the neighbourhood of the central star. [Abridged]Comment: Latex in MNRAS style, 13 pages with 6 figures, also available from

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