Outer-planet scattering can gently tilt an inner planetary system

28 Jul 2016  ·  Gratia Pierre, Fabrycky Daniel ·

Chaotic dynamics are expected during and after planet formation, and a leading mechanism to explain large eccentricities of gas giant exoplanets is planet-planet gravitational scattering. The same scattering has been invoked to explain misalignments of planetary orbital planes with respect to their host star's spin... However, an observational puzzle is presented by Kepler-56, which has two inner planets (b and c) that are nearly coplanar with each other, yet are more than 45 degrees inclined to their star's equator. Thus the spin-orbit misalignment might be primordial. Instead, we further develop the hypothesis in the discovery paper, that planets on wider orbits generated misalignment through scattering, and as a result gently torqued the inner planets away from the equator plane of the star. We integrated the equations of motion for Kepler-56 b and c along with an unstable outer system initialized with either two or three Jupiter-mass planets. We address here whether the violent scattering that generates large mutual inclinations can leave the inner system intact, tilting it gently. In almost all of the cases initially with two outer planets, either the inner planets remain nearly coplanar with each other in the star's equator plane, or they are scattered violently to high mutual inclination and high spin-orbit misalignment. On the contrary, of the systems with three unstable outer planets, a spin-orbit misalignment large enough to explain the observations is generated 28% of the time for coplanar inner planets, which is consistent with the observed frequency of this phenomenon reported so far. We conclude that multiple-planet scattering in the outer parts of the system may account for this new population of coplanar planets hosted by oblique stars. read more

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics