Extracting planet mass and eccentricity from TTV data

Yoram Lithwick*, Jiwei Xie, Yanqin Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


Most planet pairs in the Kepler data that have measured transit time variations (TTVs) are near first-order mean-motion resonances. We derive analytical formulae for their TTV signals. We separate planet eccentricity into free and forced parts, where the forced part is purely due to the planets' proximity to resonance. This separation yields simple analytical formulae. The phase of the TTV depends sensitively on the presence of free eccentricity: if the free eccentricity vanishes, the TTV will be in phase with the longitude of conjunctions. This effect is easily detectable in current TTV data. The amplitude of the TTV depends on planet mass and free eccentricity, and it determines planet mass uniquely only when the free eccentricity is sufficiently small. We analyze the TTV signals of six short-period Kepler pairs. We find that three of these pairs (Kepler 18, 24, 25) have a TTV phase consistent with zero. The other three (Kepler 23, 28, 32) have small TTV phases, but ones that are distinctly non-zero. We deduce that the free eccentricities of the planets are small, ≲ 0.01, but not always vanishing. Furthermore, as a consequence of this, we deduce that the true masses of the planets are fairly accurately determined by the TTV amplitudes, within a factor of ≲ 2. The smallness of the free eccentricities suggests that the planets have experienced substantial dissipation. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the observed pile-up of Kepler pairs near mean-motion resonances is caused by resonant repulsion. But the fact that some of the planets have non-vanishing free eccentricity suggests that after resonant repulsion occurred there was a subsequent phase in the planets' evolution when their eccentricities were modestly excited, perhaps by interplanetary interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number122
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 10 2012


  • planets and satellites: fundamental parameters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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