Super-Earths, objects slightly larger than Earth and slightly smaller than Uranus, have found a special place in exoplanetary science. As a new class of planetary bodies, these objects have challenged models of planet formation at both ends of the spectrum and have triggered a great deal of research on the composition and interior dynamics of rocky planets in connection to their masses and radii. Being relatively easier to detect than an Earth-sized planet at 1 AU around a G star, super-Earths have become the focus of worldwide observational campaigns to search for habitable planets. With a range of masses that allows these objects to retain moderate atmospheres and perhaps even plate tectonics, super-Earths may be habitable if they maintain long-term orbits in the habitable zones of their host stars. Given that in the past two years a few such potentially habitable super-Earths have in fact been discovered, it is necessary to develop a deep understanding of the formation and dynamical evolution of these objects. This article reviews the current state of research on the formation of super-Earths and discusses different models of their formation and dynamical evolution.
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
- Pub Date:
- May 2013
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- 38 pages, 7 figures, 2 tables, published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 41. The published paper with high resolution figures can be obtained from the Annual Reviews website (http://www.annualreviews.org). Posted with permission from the Annual Reviews