Simulations of the Solar System’s Early Dynamical Evolution with a Self-gravitating Planetesimal Disk

Siteng Fan and Konstantin Batygin
Astrophysical Journal Letters 851, L37 Link to Article [DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa9f0b]
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Over the course of the last decade, the Nice model has dramatically changed our view of the solar system’s formation and early evolution. Within the context of this model, a transient period of planet–planet scattering is triggered by gravitational interactions between the giant planets and a massive primordial planetesimal disk, leading to a successful reproduction of the solar system’s present-day architecture. In typical realizations of the Nice model, self-gravity of the planetesimal disk is routinely neglected, as it poses a computational bottleneck to the calculations. Recent analyses have shown, however, that a self-gravitating disk can exhibit behavior that is dynamically distinct, and this disparity may have significant implications for the solar system’s evolutionary path. In this work, we explore this discrepancy utilizing a large suite of Nice model simulations with and without a self-gravitating planetesimal disk, taking advantage of the inherently parallel nature of graphic processing units. Our simulations demonstrate that self-consistent modeling of particle interactions does not lead to significantly different final planetary orbits from those obtained within conventional simulations. Moreover, self-gravitating calculations show similar planetesimal evolution to non-self-gravitating numerical experiments after dynamical instability is triggered, suggesting that the orbital clustering observed in the distant Kuiper Belt is unlikely to have a self-gravitational origin.

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