Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Simulating the Effects of Stars Passing Close to Exoplanet Systems

Effects of stellar flybys on planetary systems: 3D modeling of the circumstellar disks damping effects


Picogna et al


Stellar flybys in star clusters are suspected to affect the orbital architecture of planetary systems causing eccentricity excitation and orbital misalignment between the planet orbit and the equatorial plane of the star. We explore whether the impulsive changes in the orbital elements of planets, caused by an hyperbolic stellar flyby, can be fully damped by the circumstellar disk surrounding the star. The time required to disperse stellar clusters is in fact comparable to circumstellar disk's lifetime. We have modelled in 3D a system made of a solar type star surrounded by a low density disk with a giant planet embedded in it approached on a hyperbolic encounter trajectory by a second star, of similar mass and with its own disk. We focus on extreme configurations where a very deep stellar flyby perturbs a Jovian planet on an external orbit. This allows to test in full the ability of the disk to erase the effects of the stellar encounter. We find that the amount of mass lost by the disk during the stellar flyby is less than in 2D models where a single disk was considered due to the mass exchange between the two disks at the encounter. The damping in eccentricity is slightly faster than in 2D models and it occurs on timescales of the order of a few kyr. The only trace of the flyby left in the planet system, after about 10^4 yr, is a small misalignment, lower than 9 degrees, between the star equatorial plane and the planet orbit. In a realistic model based on 3D simulations of star--planet--disk interactions, we find that stellar flybys cannot excite significant eccentricities and inclinations of planets in stellar clusters. The circumstellar disks hosting the planets damp on a short timescale all the step changes in the two orbital parameters produced during any stellar encounter. All records of past encounters are erased.

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