Secular chaos and its application to Mercury, hot Jupiters, and the organization of planetary systems

Yoram Lithwick*, Yanqin Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Scopus citations


In the inner solar system, the planets' orbits evolve chaotically, driven primarily by secular chaos. Mercury has a particularly chaotic orbit and is in danger of being lost within a few billion years. Just as secular chaos is reorganizing the solar system today, so it has likely helped organize it in the past. We suggest that extrasolar planetary systems are also organized to a large extent by secular chaos. A hot Jupiter could be the end state of a secularly chaotic planetary system reminiscent of the solar system. However, in the case of the hot Jupiter, the innermost planet was Jupiter (rather than Mercury) sized, and its chaotic evolution was terminated when it was tidally captured by its star. In this contribution, we review our recent work elucidating the physics of secular chaos and applying it to Mercury and to hot Jupiters. We also present results comparing the inclinations of hot Jupiters thus produced with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12610-12615
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 2 2014



  • Extrasolar planets
  • Planetary dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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