Orbital Resonances in the Solar Nebula: Strengths and Weaknesses

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43 Scopus citations


A planetesimal moving in the Solar Nebula experiences an aerodynamic drag which causes its orbit to circularize and shrink. However, resonant perturbations from a protoplanet interior to the planetesimal's orbit can counteract both the orbital decay and the damping of the eccentricity: the planetesimal can be captured into an orbital resonance and its eccentricity pumped up to a modestly high equilibrium value. Thus, orbital resonances constitute (partial) barriers to the delivery of planetesimals into the feeding zone of the protoplanet. We have established the characteristics of the phenomenon of resonance capture by gas drag in the circular restricted three-body approximation. We have determined the strengths of the equilibrium resonant orbits with respect to impulsive velocity perturbations. We conclude that planetesimals captured in orbital resonances are quite vulnerable to being dislocated from these orbits by mutual planetesimal interactions, but that the resonances are effective in slowing down the rate of orbital decay of planetesimals. Only very small bodies, ≤100 m, are able to reach a ∼ 1M protoplanet without being slowed down by resonances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-273
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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