The partitioning of the inner and outer Solar System by a structured protoplanetary disk


Mass-independent isotopic anomalies define two cosmochemically distinct regions: the carbonaceous and non-carbonaceous meteorites1, implying that the non-carbonaceous (terrestrial) and carbonaceous (Jovian) reservoirs were kept separate during and after planet formation. The formation of Jupiter is widely invoked to explain this compositional dichotomy by acting as an effective barrier between the two reservoirs2. Jupiter’s solid kernel possibly grew to 20 Earth masses (\({M}_{\oplus }\)) in 1 Myr from the accretion of submetre-sized objects (‘pebbles’), followed by slower accretion via planetesimals. Subsequent gas envelope contraction led to Jupiter’s formation as a gas giant3. Here, we use dynamical simulations to show that the growth of Jupiter from pebble accretion is not fast enough to be responsible for the inferred separation of the terrestrial and Jovian reservoirs. We propose instead that the dichotomy was caused by a pressure maximum in the disk near Jupiter’s location, which created a ringed structure such as those detected by ALMA4. One or multiple such—potentially mobile—long-lived pressure maxima almost completely prevented pebbles from the Jovian region reaching the terrestrial zone, maintaining a compositional partition between the two regions. We thus suggest that our young Solar System’s protoplanetary disk developed at least one and probably multiple rings, which potentially triggered the formation of the giant planets.

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Fig. 1: Evolution of the mass of Jupiter and a Mars analogue as a function of time when growing by pebble accretion.
Fig. 2: Outcome of pebble accretion simulations with embryos or planetesimals.
Fig. 3: Mean isotopic anomalies for several major groups of meteorites, Earth and Mars.
Fig. 4: Schematic illustration of the protoplanetary disk structure of the infant Solar System and the possible formation locations of the giant planets.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

Code availability

The source codes and simulation output for the model used in this study are archived at the Earth Life Science Institute of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and are available on request from the corresponding authors. The SyMBA code that our simulations are based on is not in the public domain. It can be requested from its main author H. F. Levison at the Southwest Research Institute.


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We thank S. Matsumura for the pebble accretion code, B. Bitsch for sharing the location of gas pressure maxima outwards of planets and E. Vorobyov for pointing out dust pile-up in the inner disk. R.B. acknowledges financial assistance from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) International Joint Research Fund (JP17KK0089) and JSPS Shingakujutsu Kobo (JP19H05071).

Author information

Both authors devised the study and wrote the manuscript. R.B. ran and analysed the dynamical simulations. S.J.M. compiled the cosmochemical isotopic database.

Correspondence to R. Brasser or S. J. Mojzsis.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Additional Embryo Simulations.

Additional simulations with multiple seed planets, distributed between 0.5 au and either 1.5 au or 3.5 au. In each simulation all the seeds initially have the same mass (either 10\({}^{-3}\) or 10\({}^{-4}\) \({\mathrm{M}}_{\oplus}\)), but we vary this mass between simulations. Initial disk temperature at 1 au is either 200 K, 250 K or 300 K. The top row has an initial disc temperature of 200 K, middle row 250 K and bottom row 300 K. Red dots are for simulations with embryos between 0.5 au and 3.5 au, black for embryos terminating at 1.5 au. The left column has embryos with initial mass 10\({}^{-3}\) \({\mathrm{M}}_{\oplus}\), the right column with 10\({}^{-4}\) \({\mathrm{M}}_{\oplus}\). In all cases, placing embryos in the asteroid belt overshoots the mass in that region, though a truncation near 2 au may be viable to explore in future work.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Planetesimal accretion of pebbles without Jupiter.

Initial (black) and final (red) masses and semi-major axes of a swarm of planetesimals with diameters from 100 km to 2000 km without Jupiter. The planetesimals have with a cumulative size-frequency distribution N(>D)\(\propto\)D\({}^{-5/2}\)6 and initial density 2000 kg m\({}^{-3}\); this is a top-heavy distribution where most of the mass is in the large bodies. The disk temperature at 1 au was set to 200 K. In the innermost portion of the planetesimal disk bodies accrete >50% of their own mass in pebbles. The growth is inside-out.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Growth tracks of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune with pebble accretion.

Evolution of the mass of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Mars analogue as a function of time when growing by pebble accretion for nominal pebble flux and growth of Jupiter consistent with cosmochemical ages. The original disk temperature at 1 au is 250 K. No migration was included.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Meteorite parent body model formation ages.

Model formation age of chondrite parent bodies versus isotopic anomalies in chromium-54 (N. Sugiura and W. Fujiya, Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 49, 772–787; 2014). Bodies in the inner solar system tend to form earlier than bodies in the outer solar system.

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Brasser, R., Mojzsis, S.J. The partitioning of the inner and outer Solar System by a structured protoplanetary disk. Nat Astron (2020).

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