The 3D Dust and Opacity Distribution of Protoplanets in Multifluid Global Simulations

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10 Scopus citations


The abundance and distribution of solids inside the Hill sphere are central to our understanding of the giant planet dichotomy. Here, we present a 3D characterization of the dust density, mass flux, and mean opacities in the envelope of subthermal and superthermal-mass planets. We simulate the dynamics of multiple dust species in a global protoplanetary disk model accounting for dust feedback. We find that the meridional flows do not effectively stir dust grains at scales of the Bondi sphere. Thus the dust settling driven by the stellar gravitational potential sets the latitudinal dust density gradient within the planet envelope. Not only does the planet's potential enhance this gradient, but also the spiral wakes serve as another source of asymmetry. These asymmetries substantially alter the inferred mean Rosseland and Planck opacities. In cases with moderate-to-strong dust settling, the opacity gradient can range from a few percent to more than two orders of magnitude between the midplane and the polar regions of the Bondi sphere. Finally, we show that this strong latitudinal opacity gradient can introduce a transition between optically thick and thin regimes at the scales of the planet envelope. We suggest that this transition is likely to occur when the equilibrium scale height of hundred-micron-sized particles is smaller than the Hill radius of the forming planet. This work calls into question the adoption of a constant opacity derived from well-mixed distributions and demonstrates the need for global radiation hydrodynamics models of giant planet formation that account for dust dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number156
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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