Exoplanet Formation

Exoplanet Formation

Assembly Line of Planets: This diagram illustrates how planets are assembled and sorted into two distinct size classes. Image credit: NASA/Kepler/Caltech (R. Hurt)

Assembly Line of Planets: This diagram illustrates how planets are assembled and sorted into two distinct size classes. First, the rocky cores of planets are formed from smaller pieces. Then, the gravity of the planets attracts hydrogen and helium gas. Finally, the planets are “baked” by the starlight and lose some gas. At a certain mass threshold, planets retain the gas and become gaseous mini-Neptunes; below this threshold, the planets lose all their gas, becoming rocky super-Earths. Image credit: NASA/Kepler/Caltech (R. Hurt)

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