Secular chaos and the production of hot Jupiters

Yanqin Wu*, Yoram Lithwick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

176 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a planetary system with two or more well-spaced, eccentric, inclined planets, secular interactions may lead to chaos. The innermost planet may gradually become very eccentric and/or inclined as a result of the secular degrees of freedom drifting toward equipartition of angular momentum deficit. Secular chaos is known to be responsible for the eventual destabilization of Mercury in our own solar system. Here we focus on systems with three giant planets. We characterize the secular chaos and demonstrate the criterion for it to occur, but leave a detailed understanding of secular chaos to a companion paper. After an extended period of eccentricity diffusion, the inner planet's pericenter can approach the star to within a few stellar radii. Strong tidal interactions and ensuing tidal dissipation extract orbital energy from the planet and pull it inward, creating a hot Jupiter. In contrast to other proposed channels for the production of hot Jupiters, such a scenario (which we term "secular migration") explains a range of observations: the pile-up of hot Jupiters at 3 day orbital periods, the fact that hot Jupiters are in general less massive than other radial velocity planets, that they may have misaligned inclinations with respect to stellar spin, and that they have few easily detectable companions (but may have giant companions in distant orbits). Secular migration can also explain close-in planets as low in mass as Neptune; and an aborted secular migration can explain the "warm Jupiters" at intermediate distances. In addition, the frequency of hot Jupiters formed via secular migration increases with stellar age. We further suggest that secular chaos may be responsible for the observed eccentricities of giant planets at larger distances and that these planets could exhibit significant spin-orbit misalignment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume735
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 10 2011

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Keywords

  • planetary systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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