Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Planets, debris and their host metallicity correlations


Fletcher et al


Recent observations of debris discs (DDs), believed to be made up of remnant planetesimals, brought a number of surprises. DD presence does not correlate with the host star's metallicity, and may anticorrelate with the presence of gas giant planets. These observations contradict both assumptions and predictions of the highly successful Core Accretion model of planet formation. Here, we explore predictions of the alternative tidal downsizing (TD) scenario of planet formation. In TD, small planets and planetesimal debris is made only when gas fragments, predecessors of giant planets, are tidally disrupted. We show that these disruptions are rare in discs around high-metallicity stars but release more debris per disruption than their low [M/H] analogues. This predicts no simple relation between DD presence and host star's [M/H], as observed. A detected gas giant planet implies in TD that its predecessor fragment was not disputed, potentially explaining why DDs are less likely to be found around stars with gas giants. Less massive planets should correlate with DD presence, and sub-Saturn planets (Mp ∼ 50 M⊕) should correlate with DD presence stronger than sub-Neptunes (Mp ≲ 15 M⊕). These predicted planet–DD correlations will be diluted and weakened in observations by planetary systems’ long-term evolution and multifragment effects neglected here. Finally, although presently difficult to observe, DDs around M dwarf stars should be more prevalent than around Solar type stars.

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