Observational evidence for two distinct giant planet populations
Santos et al
Analysis of the statistical properties of exoplanets, together with those of their host stars, are providing a unique view into the process of planet formation and evolution. In this paper we explore the properties of the mass distribution of giant planet companions to solar-type stars, in a quest for clues about their formation process. With this goal in mind we studied, with the help of standard statistical tests, the mass distribution of giant planets using data from the exoplanet.eu catalog and the SWEET-Cat database of stellar parameters for stars with planets. We show that the mass distribution of giant planet companions is likely to present more than one population with a change in regime around 4\,MJup. Above this value host stars tend to be more metal poor and more massive and have [Fe/H] distributions that are statistically similar to those observed in field stars of similar mass. On the other hand, stars that host planets below this limit show the well-known metallicity-giant planet frequency correlation. We discuss these results in light of various planet formation models and explore the implications they may have on our understanding of the formation of giant planets. In particular, we discuss the possibility that the existence of two separate populations of giant planets indicates that two different processes of formation are at play.