Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Do Giant Planets Block SuperEarths From Migrating Inward

Gas giant planets as dynamical barriers to inward-migrating super-Earths


Izidoro et al


Planets of 1-4 times Earth's size on orbits shorter than 100 days exist around 30-50% of all Sun-like stars. In fact, the Solar System is particularly outstanding in its lack of "hot super-Earths" (or "mini-Neptunes"). These planets -- or their building blocks -- may have formed on wider orbits and migrated inward due to interactions with the gaseous protoplanetary disk. Here, we use a suite of dynamical simulations to show that gas giant planets act as barriers to the inward migration of super-Earths initially placed on more distant orbits. Jupiter's early formation may have prevented Uranus and Neptune (and perhaps Saturn's core) from becoming hot super-Earths. Our model predicts that the populations of hot super-Earth systems and Jupiter-like planets should be anti-correlated: gas giants (especially if they form early) should be rare in systems with many hot super-Earths. Testing this prediction will constitute a crucial assessment of the validity of the migration hypothesis for the origin of close-in super-Earths.

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