Hot-Jupiter Breakfasts Realign Stars

Two researchers at the University of Chicago have recently developed a new theory to explain an apparent dichotomy in the orbits of planets around cool vs. hot stars. Their model proposes that the spins of cool stars are affected when they ingest hot Jupiters (HJs) early in their stellar lifetimes.

A Puzzling Dichotomy

In exoplanet studies, there is a puzzling difference observed between planet orbits around cool and hot (those with Teff ≥ 6250 K) stars: the orbital planes of planets around cool stars are primarily aligned with the host star’s spin, whereas the orbital planes of planets around hot stars seem to be randomly distributed.

Previous attempts to explain this dichotomy have focused on tidal interactions between the host star and the planets observed in the system. Now Titos Matsakos and Arieh Königl have taken these models a step further — by including in their calculations not only the effects of observed planets, but also those of HJs that may have been swallowed by the star long before we observed the systems.

Modeling Meals

Plots of the distribution of the obliquity λ for hot Jupiters around cool hosts (upper plot) and hot hosts (lower plot). The dashed line shows the initial distribution, the bins show the model prediction for the final distribution after the systems evolve, and the black dots show the current observational data. [Matsakos & Königl, 2015]

Plots of the distribution of the obliquity λ for hot Jupiters around cool hosts (upper plot) and hot hosts (lower plot). The dashed line shows the initial distribution, the bins show the model prediction for the final distribution after the systems evolve, and the black dots show the current observational data. [Matsakos & Königl, 2015]

The authors’ model assumes that as HJs are formed and migrate inward through the protoplanetary disk, they stall out near the star (where they have periods of ~2 days) and get stranded as the gas disk evaporates around them. Tidal interactions can cause these planets to become ingested by the host star within 1 Gyr.

Using Monte Carlo simulations, the authors model these star-planet tidal interactions and evolve a total of 10^6 systems: half with hot (Teff = 6400 K), main-sequence hosts, and half with cool (Teff = 5500 K), solar-type hosts. The initial obliquities — the angle between the stellar spin and the planets’ orbital angular momentum vectors — are randomly distributed between 0° and 180°.

The authors find that early stellar ingestion of planets might be very common: to match observations, roughly half of all stellar hosts must ingest an HJ early in their lifetimes!

This scenario results in a good match with observational data: about 50% of cool hosts’ spins become roughly aligned with the orbital plane of their planets after they absorb the orbital angular momentum of the HJ they ingest. Hot stars, on the other hand, generally retain their random distributions of obliquity, because their angular momentum is typically higher than the orbital angular momentum of the ingested planet.

 

Citation

Titos Matsakos and Arieh Königl 2015 ApJ 809 L20 doi:10.1088/2041-8205/809/2/L20

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