Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Are Tightly Packed Exoplanet Systems Shaped by Unseen Gas Giants?

There might be giants: unseen Jupiter-mass planets as sculptors of tightly-packed planetary systems


Hands et al


The limited completeness of the Kepler sample for planets with orbital periods ≳ 1 yr leaves open the possibility that exoplanetary systems may host undetected giant planets. Should such planets exist, their dynamical interactions with the inner planets may prove vital in sculpting the final orbital configurations of these systems. Using an N-body code with additional forces to emulate the effects of a protoplanetary disc, we perform simulations of the assembly of compact systems of super-Earth-mass planets with unseen giant companions. The simulated systems are analogous to Kepler-11 or Kepler-32 in that they contain 4 or 5 inner super-Earths, but our systems also contain longer-period giant companions which are unlikely to have been detected by Kepler. We find that giant companions tend to break widely-spaced, first-order mean-motion resonances, allowing the inner planets to migrate into tighter resonances. This leads to more compact architectures and increases the occurrence rate of Laplace resonant chains.

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