Hubble video animates ice formation inside a protoplanetary disk

By Brooks Hays  |  March 9, 2018 at 11:52 AM
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March 9 (UPI) -- In a new video released by Hubble, animators offer viewers a glimpse of ice formation inside a protoplanetary disk.

Over thousands of years, the dust grains circling a young star can accumulate layers of ice. As they grow in mass, the icy particles are pulled in by the gravity of newly formed planets.

Scientists hypothesize that icy particles delivered the elements necessary for life on young Earth.

Studies show the presence of water ice increases the surface density of solid particles by a factor of four, increasing the rate of accretion in the protoplanetary disk. It's likely ice played a role in accelerating the planet's formation process in the early days of our solar system.

But ice particles aren't present throughout the protoplanetary disk. Water circling too close to the sun will exist as a vapor and be blown away by stellar winds. At a certain distance the temperature will be low enough for water to exist as ice.

This dividing line is sometimes called the snow line, and it explains why many of the gas and ice giants found in the outer solar system have more water than planets formed closer to the sun.

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