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The Formation of Binary Planetesimals

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Can Cui.

The current era of astronomical observations, Solar System exploration and powerful supercomputers is bringing new insights to the origin of planetary systems. I will focus on the origin of planetesimals, primordial minor planets with sizes ~10 km. These are the least massive gravitationally bound objects in the universe, and their origin is crucial to understanding our Solar System and extrasolar planets. I will describe current ideas for how particle growth crosses the daunting ``meter size barrier” where collisions tend to be destructive and solids can drift rapidly into the host star. I will describe the Steaming Instability, a mechanism that can concentrate pebbles (large dust) to high densities in the disk midplane, triggering planetesimal formation by the gravitational collapse of these pebbles. I will describe how these theories relate to recents observations of protoplanetary disks by ALMA and to the study of the Kuiper belt by telescopes and by the New Horizons mission.

This talk is part of the DAMTP Astro Mondays series.

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