The Effect of Planets Beyond the Ice Line on the Accretion of Volatiles by Habitable-Zone Rocky Planets
Models of planet formation have shown that giant planets have a large impact on the number, masses and orbits of terrestrial planets that form. In addition, they play an important role in delivering volatiles from material that formed exterior to the snow-line (the region in the disk beyond which water ice can condense) to the inner region of the disk where terrestrial planets can maintain liquid water on their surfaces. We present simulations of the late stages of terrestrial planet formation from a disk of protoplanets around a solar-type star, and we include a massive planet (from 1 Earth mass to 1 Jupiter mass) in Jupiter’s orbit at ~5.2 AU in all but one set of simulations. Two initial disk models are examined with the same mass distribution and total initial water content, but with different distributions of water content. We compare the accretion rates and final water mass fraction of the planets that form. Remarkably, all of the planets that formed in our simulations without giant planets were water-rich, showing that giant planet companions are not required to deliver volatiles to terrestrial planets in the habitable zone. In contrast, an outer planet at least several times the mass of Earth may be needed to clear distant regions from debris truncating the epoch of frequent large impacts. Observations of exoplanets from radial velocity surveys suggest that outer Jupiter-like planets may be scarce, therefore the results presented here suggest the number of habitable planets that reside in our galaxy may be more than previously thought.