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Numerical Modelling of Planet Formation

With over 1,000 extrasolar planets discovered in the past fifteen years, it is becoming increasingly important to study the planet formation process. There is an ongoing project at Swinburne to numerically study the earliest stages of the process in which micron size dust particles aggregate together to form metre size boulders that form the base material for planets.

We have a unique 3D, two-phase (dust+gas) hydrodynamics code, which includes gas pressure, viscosity, drag, self-gravity and a range of equations of state. We are interested in the global evolution of the dust within protoplanetary disks; how vertical settling and radial migration effects the timescales and locations of planet formation; how grains grow within protoplanetary disks and how grain growth effects the evolution and observational signatures of disks; and the effect of an embedded planet in a dusty-gas disks and the observational signatures of these effects.

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Numerical simulations of a 5 Jupiter mass embedded planet in a protoplanetary disk at 40AU. Top right shows the gas evolution and three grain sizes are also shown: 100┬Ám, 1mm, 1cm. The colour represents the column density in a face-on view of the disk.
Credit: (c) Gonzalez, Maddison, Fouchet