Formation of Cosmic Dust Bunnies
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Planetary formation is an efficient process now thought to take place on a relatively short astronomical time scale. Recent observations have shown that the dust surrounding a protostar emits more efficiently at longer wavelengths as the protoplanetary disk evolves, suggesting that the dust particles are coagulating into fluffy aggregates, "much as dust bunnies form under a bed." One poorly understood problem in this coagulation process is the manner in which the micrometer-sized charged grains form the fractal aggregate structures now thought to be the precursors of protoplanetary disk evolution. This paper examines the characteristics of such fractal aggregates formed by the collision of spherical monomers and aggregates where the charge is distributed over the aggregate structure. The aggregates are free to rotate due to the collisions and dipole-dipole electrostatic interactions. Comparisons are made for different precursor size distributions and like-charged, oppositely charged, and neutral grains.