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Calculations On How To Grow a planet.

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grow by accreting matter (water or asteroids) at

their surface.

The basic shape of a planet or a raindrop is

that of a sphere. As the sphere increases in size,

there is more surface area for matter to be accreted

onto it, and so the growth rate increases.

In the following series of problems, we are

going to follow a step-by-step logical process that

will result in a simple mathematical model for

predicting how rapidly a planet or a raindrop forms.

Problem 1 - The differential equation for the growth of the mass of a body by

accretion is given by Equation 1 and the mass of the body is given by Equation 2

Equation 1)

dM

= 4 V R(t ) 2

dt

Equation 2)

4

M (t ) = D R(t )3

3

where R is the radius of the body at time t, V is the speed of the infalling material,

is the density of the infalling material, and D is the density of the body.

Solve Equation 2 for R(t), substitute this into Equation 1 and simplify.

Problem 2 - Integrate your answer to Problem 1 to derive the formula for M(t).

Raindrop Condensation - A typical raindrop might form so that its final mass is about 100

3

3

milligrams and D = 1000 kg/m , under atmospheric conditions where = 1 kg/m and V = 1

m/sec. How long would it take such a raindrop to condense?

Planet Accretion - A typical rocky planet might form so that its final mass is about that of

Earth or 5.9x1024 kg, and D = 3000 kg/m3, under conditions where = 0.000001 kg/m3

and V = 1 km/sec. How long would it take such a planet to accrete using this approximate

mathematical model?

Space Math

http://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov

20

20

Answer Key

Figure from Planetary science: Building a planet in record time by Alan Brandon, Nature 473,460

461(26 May 2011)

Answer 1:

1

3M (t ) 3

R (t ) =

4 D

Answer 2:

then

dM

3M 3

= 4 V

dt

4 D

so

2

dM

M

2

3

2

dM

3 3

3

M

= 4 V

dt

4 D

3 3

= 4 V

dt

4 D

3M

1

3

4 V 3

M (t ) =

3 4 D

3

3 3

= 4 V

t

4 D

2

t3

Raindrop Condensation - A typical raindrop might form so that its final mass is about 100

3

3

milligrams and D = 1000 kg/m , under atmospheric conditions where = 1 kg/m and V = 2.0

m/sec (about 5 miles per hour). How long would it take such a raindrop to condense using this

approximate mathematical model?

3

4 (2.0)(1.0)

0.0001 =

4 (1000)

3

t3

so

t = 2.98

Planet Accretion - A typical rocky planet might form so that its final mass is about that of

24

3

3

Earth or 5.9x10 kg, and D = 3000 kg/m , under conditions where = 0.000001 kg/m and

V = 1 km/sec. How long would it take such a planet to accrete using this approximate

mathematical model?

3

4 (1000)(0.000001)

5.9 x10 =

4 (3000)

3

24

t3

so

t = 1.27x1040

Space Math

http://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov

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