Wednesday, August 12, 2015

HD 107146's Double-ringed Debris Disk Created by Interaction With an Eccentric Exoplanet

Double-ringed debris discs could be the work of eccentric planets: explaining the strange morphology of HD 107146


Pearce et al


We investigate the general interaction between an eccentric planet and a coplanar debris disc of the same mass, using analytical theory and n-body simulations. Such an interaction could result from a planet-planet scattering or merging event. We show that when the planet mass is comparable to that of the disc, the former is often circularised with little change to its semimajor axis. The secular effect of such a planet can cause debris to apsidally anti-align with the planet's orbit (the opposite of what may be naively expected), leading to the counter-intuitive result that a low-mass planet may clear a larger region of debris than a higher-mass body would. The interaction generally results in a double-ringed debris disc, which is comparable to those observed in HD 107146 and HD 92945. As an example we apply our results to HD 107146, and show that the disc's morphology and surface brightness profile can be well-reproduced if the disc is interacting with an eccentric planet of comparable mass (~10-100 Earth masses). This hypothetical planet had a pre-interaction semimajor axis of 30 or 40 au (similar to its present-day value) and an eccentricity of 0.4 or 0.5 (which would since have reduced to ~0.1). Thus the planet (if it exists) presently resides near the inner edge of the disc, rather than between the two debris peaks as may otherwise be expected. Finally we show that disc self-gravity can be important in this mass regime and, whilst it would not affect these results significantly, it should be considered when probing the interaction between a debris disc and a planet.

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