Early planetary migration may explain missing planets

Early planetary migration may explain missing planets

Types of exoplanets – Illustration

image: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/resources/2319/exoplanet-types-illustration/ CAPTION: An illustration of the variations among the more than 5,000 known exoplanets discovered since the 1990s.
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Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

HOUSTON – (November 7, 2022) – A new model that accounts for the interaction of forces acting on infant planets may explain two puzzling observations that have cropped up repeatedly among the more than 3,800 planetary systems cataloged to date.

A puzzle known as the “radius valley” refers to the rarity of exoplanets with a radius about 1.8 times that of Earth. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has observed planets of this size about 2-3 times less frequently than it has observed super-Earths with radii about 1.4 times that of Earth and mini- Neptunes with radii about 2.5 times that of Earth. The second mystery, known as “peas in a pod”, refers to neighboring planets of similar size that have been found in hundreds of planetary systems. These include TRAPPIST-1 and Kepler-223, which also exhibit planetary orbits of near-musical harmony.

“I believe we are the first to explain the valley of the ray using a model of planet formation and dynamic evolution that consistently accounts for multiple observational constraints,” said André Izidoro of Rice University. , corresponding author of a study published this week in Letters from the Astrophysical Journal. “We are also able to show that a model of planet formation incorporating giant impacts is consistent with the pea-in-a-pod feature of exoplanets.”

Izidoro, a Welch postdoctoral fellow from Rice’s NASA-funded CLEVER Planets project, and his co-authors used a supercomputer to simulate the first 50 million years of planetary system development using a migration model planetary. In the model, the protoplanetary disks of gas and dust that give rise to young planets also interact with them, bringing them closer to their parent stars and locking them into resonant orbital chains. The chains break in a few million years, when the disappearance of the protoplanetary disc causes orbital instabilities which lead two or more planets to collide.

Planetary migration models have been used to study planetary systems that have retained their resonant orbital chains. For example, colleagues from Izidoro and CLEVER Planets used a 2021 migration model to calculate the maximum amount of disturbance the seven-planet system of TRAPPIST-1 could have endured during the bombardment while retaining its harmonious orbital structure. .

In the new study, Izidoro teamed up with CLEVER Planets researchers Rajdeep Dasgupta and Andrea Isella, both of Rice, Hilke Schlichting of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Christian Zimmermann and Bertram Bitsch of the Max Planck Institute. astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. .

“The migration of young planets to their host stars creates overpopulation and frequently results in cataclysmic collisions that strip planets of their hydrogen-rich atmospheres,” Izidoro said. “This means giant impacts, like the one that formed our moon, are likely a generic result of planet formation.”

The research suggests the planets come in two ‘flavors’, super-Earths that are dry, rocky and 50% larger than Earth, and mini-Neptunes rich in water ice and around 2.5 times larger than Earth. Izidoro said new observations appear to support the findings, which contradict the traditional view that super-Earths and mini-Neptunes are exclusively dry, rocky worlds.

Based on their findings, the researchers made predictions that can be tested by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. They suggest, for example, that a fraction of planets roughly twice the size of Earth will retain both their primordial hydrogen-rich atmosphere and be water-rich.

The research was funded by NASA (80NSSC18K0828), the Welch Foundation (C-2035-20200401), and the European Research Council (757448-PAMDORA).


Peer-reviewed article:

“Exoplanet Radius Valley from Gas-Induced Planetary Migration and Resonance Chain Breaking” | Astrophysical Journal Letters | DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac990d

André Izidoro, Hilke E. Schlichting, Andrea Isella, Rajdeep Dasgupta, Christian Zimmermann and Bertram Bitsch


High resolution IMAGES are available for download at:

CAPTION: An illustration of the variations among more than 5,000 known exoplanets discovered since the 1990s. (Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

CAPTION: An illustration depicting the rarity of exoplanets about 1.8 times the size of Earth that have been observed by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. (Graphic courtesy of A. Izidoro/Rice University)

CAPTION: André Izidoro (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Related stories:

Earth isn’t ‘great’ because the sun had rings before the planets – January 5, 2022

Orbital harmony limits late arrival of water to TRAPPIST-1 planets – November 25, 2021

This press release can be viewed online at news.rice.edu.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Located on a 300-acre wooded campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the nation by US News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of architecture, business, continuing studies, engineering, humanities, music, natural sciences, and social sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 4,240 undergraduate students and 3,972 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6 to 1. Its residential college system creates close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, one reason for which Rice is ranked #1 for many race/class interactions and #1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also ranked as the best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

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