Heavy Elements Key for Planet Formation
Planets form more commonly in star systems with relatively high concentrations of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, a new study suggests. Such heavier elements are necessary to form the dust grains and planetesimals that build planetary cores, according to the study, which was carried out by researchers Jarrett Johnson and Hui Li of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Additionally, evidence suggests that the disks of dust that surround young stars don’t survive as long when the stars have lower concentrations of heavy elements, or lower “metallicities” in astronomers’ jargon. The most likely reason for this shorter lifespan is that light from the star causes clouds of dust to evaporate.