Prograde rotation of protoplanets by accretion of pebbles in a gaseous environment

Anders Johansen, Pedro Lacerda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


We perform hydrodynamical simulations of the accretion of pebbles and rocks on to protoplanets of a few hundred kilometres in radius, including two-way drag force coupling between particles and the protoplanetary disc gas. Particle streams interacting with the gas within the Hill sphere of the protoplanet spiral into a prograde circumplanetary disc. Material is accreted on to the protoplanet due to stirring by the turbulent surroundings. We speculate that the trend for prograde rotation among the largest asteroids is primordial and that protoplanets accreted 10-50 per cent of their mass from pebbles and rocks during the gaseous solar nebula phase. Our model also offers a possible explanation for the narrow range of spin periods observed among the largest bodies in the asteroid and trans-Neptunian belts, and predicts that 1000-km-scale Kuiper Belt objects that have not experienced giant impacts should preferentially spin in the prograde direction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-485
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • hydrodynamics
  • Kuiper Belt
  • minor planets
  • asteroids
  • planets: rings
  • Solar system: formation
  • planetary systems: protoplanetary discs


Dive into the research topics of 'Prograde rotation of protoplanets by accretion of pebbles in a gaseous environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this