Global 3D radiation-hydrodynamic simulations of gas accretion: Opacity-dependent growth of Saturn-mass planets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The full spatial structure and temporal evolution of the accretion flow into the envelopes of growing gas giants in their nascent discs is only accessible in simulations. Such simulations are constrained in their approach of computing the formation of gas giants by dimensionality, resolution, consideration of self-gravity, energy treatment and the adopted opacity law. Our study explores how a number of these parameters affect the measured accretion rate of a Saturn-mass planet. We present a global 3D radiative hydrodynamics framework using the FARGOCA-code. The planet is represented by a gravitational potential with a smoothing length at the location of the planet. No mass or energy sink is used; instead luminosity and gas accretion rates are self-consistently computed. We find that the gravitational smoothing length must be resolved by at least ten grid cells to obtain converged measurements of the gas accretion rates. Secondly, we find gas accretion rates into planetary envelopes that are compatible with previous studies, and continue to explain those via the structure of our planetary envelopes and their luminosities. Our measured gas accretion rates are formally in the stage of Kelvin-Helmholtz contraction due to the modest entropy loss that can be obtained over the simulation timescale, but our accretion rates are compatible with those expected during late run-away accretion. Our detailed simulations of the gas flow into the envelope of a Saturn-mass planet provide a framework for understanding the general problem of gas accretion during planet formation and highlight circulation features that develop inside the planetary envelopes. Those circulation features feedback into the envelope energetics and can have further implications for transporting dust into the inner regions of the envelope.


External organisations
  • Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
  • Université Nice Sophia Antipolis
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec
Publication categoryResearch

Related research output

Matthäus Schulik, 2020 Apr, Lund: Lund. 159 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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