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Planet heating prevents inward migration of planetary cores


Planetary systems are born in the disks of gas, dust and rocky fragments that surround newly formed stars. Solid content assembles into ever-larger rocky fragments that eventually become planetary embryos. These then continue their growth by accreting leftover material in the disk. Concurrently, tidal effects in the disk cause a radial drift in the embryo orbits, a process known as migration1,2,3,4. Fast inward migration is predicted by theory for embryos smaller than three to five Earth masses5,6,7. With only inward migration, these embryos can only rarely become giant planets located at Earth's distance from the Sun and beyond8,9, in contrast with observations10. Here we report that asymmetries in the temperature rise associated with accreting infalling material11,12 produce a force (which gives rise to an effect that we call ‘heating torque’) that counteracts inward migration. This provides a channel for the formation of giant planets8 and also explains the strong planet–metallicity correlation found between the incidence of giant planets and the heavy-element abundance of the host stars13,14.

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Figure 1: Comparison of the torques in the cases with and without heating.
Figure 2: Heating torque for different growth timescales.
Figure 3: Density in the vicinity of an irradiating embryo.


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We thank A. Morbidelli for a critical reading of a first version of this manuscript. P.B.-Ll. thanks CONICET for financial support. This research was supported by UNAM grants PAPIIT IA101113 and IN105313 and by CONACyT grants 178377 and 129343. J.Sz. acknowledges support from the Capital Fund Management's J. P. Aguilar Grant. We also thank U. Amaya Olvera, R. García Carreón and J. Verleyen for their assistance in setting up the GPU cluster on which the calculations presented here have been run.

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P.B.-Ll. performed the numerical simulations and their subsequent reduction. F.M. designed the project and wrote the Methods. G.K. wrote the main paper. J.Sz. provided assistance with the radiative transfer module. All authors contributed to the discussion presented in this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Frédéric Masset.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Exploration of the parameter space.

Heating torque ΓH normalized to the absolute value of the torque of the non-accreting case |ΓNH|, as a function of embryo mass Mp, opacity κ and mass doubling time τ. Whenever one parameter is varying, others have the value of the fiducial run. Mass-doubling times are given in units of years and show that a positive torque results for τ 60,000 years. The right axis shows the total torque Γ = ΓH + ΓNH, also normalized to |ΓNH|. The horizontal dashed line corresponds to no migration. Source data for this figure are available online.

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Benítez-Llambay, P., Masset, F., Koenigsberger, G. et al. Planet heating prevents inward migration of planetary cores. Nature 520, 63–65 (2015).

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