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Volatile loss from accreting icy protoplanetsA large self-gravitating body does not easily lose significant mass because the escape velocity is much larger than the sound speed of atmosphere-forming species under ambient thermal conditions. The most significant exceptions to this are giant impacts or impact jetting by fast-moving projectiles. A very small object (e.g. a comet) also does not easily lose significant volatile mass upon formation because the energy release associated with its accretion is so small. (It can however lose a great deal of mass if it is subsequently moved closer to the Sun.) I argue that there is an intermediate mass range (corresponding to bodies with radii of approximately 300-800 km) for which the ambient steady-state mass loss is a maximum. By ambient, I mean those conditions pertaining to the formation region of the body. By steady state, I mean to exclude infrequent traumas (giant impacts). The existence of a preferred intermediate mass arises through the competition of growing gravitational containment and growing energy release by accretion; it corresponds typically to GM/(Rc(sub s)(exp 2)) approximately equals 2 to 4, where M is the protoplanet mass of radius R, and c(sub s) is the sound speed. Several factors determine the amount of volatile loss is this vulnerable zone during accretion but in general the loss is a substantial fraction of the volatiles, sometimes approaching 100 percent. The principal implication is that bodies larger than a few hundred kilometers in radius will not have a 'primitive' (i.e. cometary) composition. This is relevant for understanding Triton, Pluto, Charon, and perhaps Chiron.
Document ID
19940016320
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Stevenson, D. J. (California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Inst., Twenty-Fourth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Part 3: N-Z
Subject Category
ASTROPHYSICS
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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