Orbital migration of protoplanets: The inertial limit

William R. Ward, Kerry Hourigan

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The dynamical evolution of a disk and the orbital migration of an embedded protoplanet are examined. We show how the migration of a protoplanet due to density waves torques can suppress the tendency for tidal truncation of the disk. A critical mass is determined as a function of the disk properties that represents the limiting mass that can sustain drift without stalling. This inertial limit is derived analytically, using a quasi-steady state theory, and confirmed by numerical experiment. This result contradicts the claim of Lin and Papaloizou that such a limit does not exist. Orbital mobility of objects due to density wave torques may have played an important role in the early evolution of the solar system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-495
Number of pages6
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Formation-solar system
  • General
  • Hydrodynamics-planets

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