The formation of uranus and neptune: Challenges and implications for intermediate-mass exoplanets

Ravit Helled, Peter Bodenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we investigate the formation of Uranus and Neptune, according to the core-nucleated accretion model, considering formation locations ranging from 12 to 30 AU from the Sun, and with various disk solid-surface densities and core accretion rates. It is shown that in order to form Uranus-like and Neptune-like planets in terms of final mass and solid-to-gas ratio, very specific conditions are required. We also show that when recently proposed high solid accretion rates are assumed, along with solid surface densities about 10 times those in the minimum-mass solar nebula, the challenge in forming Uranus and Neptune at large radial distances is no longer the formation timescale, but is rather finding agreement with the final mass and composition of these planets. In fact, these conditions are more likely to lead to gas-giant planets. Scattering of planetesimals by the forming planetary core is found to be an important effect at the larger distances. Our study emphasizes how (even slightly) different conditions in the protoplanetary disk and the birth environment of the planetary embryos can lead to the formation of very different planets in terms of final masses and compositions (solid-to-gas ratios), which naturally explains the large diversity of intermediate-mass exoplanets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number69
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • planets and satellites: composition
  • planets and satellites: formation
  • planets and satellites: individual (Uranus, Neptune)
  • planets and satellites: interiors


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