Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Simulating Closely Packed Systems Over 14 Billion Years

Full-lifetime simulations of multiple unequal-mass planets across all phases of stellar evolution


Veras et al


We know that planetary systems are just as common around white dwarfs as around main sequence stars. However, self-consistently linking a planetary system across these two phases of stellar evolution through the violent giant branch poses computational challenges, and previous studies restricted architectures to equal-mass planets. Here, we remove this constraint and perform over 450 numerical integrations over a Hubble time (14 Gyr) of packed planetary systems with unequal-mass planets. We characterize the resulting trends as a function of planet order and mass. We find that intrusive radial incursions in the vicinity of the white dwarf become less likely as the dispersion amongst planet masses increases. The orbital meandering which may sustain a sufficiently dynamic environment around a white dwarf to explain observations is more dependent on the presence of terrestrial-mass planets than any variation in planetary mass. Triggering unpacking or instability during the white dwarf phase is comparably easy for systems of unequal-mass planets and systems of equal-mass planets; instabilities during the giant branch phase remain rare and require fine-tuning of initial conditions. We list the key dynamical features of each simulation individually as a potential guide for upcoming discoveries.

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