High Orbital Eccentricities of Extrasolar Planets Induced by the Kozai Mechanism

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Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Astrophysics, abstract

From: Genya Takeda [view email]
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2005 10:36:24 GMT   (55kb)
High Orbital Eccentricities of Extrasolar Planets Induced by the Kozai Mechanism
Authors: G. Takeda, F.A. Rasio (Northwestern University)
Comments: 25 pages, 6 figures, ApJ, submitted
One of the most remarkable properties of extrasolar planets is their high orbital eccentricities. Observations have shown that at least 20% of these planets, including some with particularly high eccentricities, are orbiting a component of a wide binary star system. The presence of a distant binary companion can cause significant secular perturbations to the orbit of a planet. In particular, at high relative inclinations, a planet can undergo a large-amplitude eccentricity oscillation. This so-called "Kozai mechanism" is effective at a very long range, and its amplitude is purely dependent on the relative orbital inclination. In this paper, we address the following simple question: assuming that every host star with a detected giant planet also has a (possibly unseen, e.g., substellar) distant companion, with reasonable distributions of orbital parameters and masses, how well could secular perturbations reproduce the observed eccentricity distribution of planets? Our calculations show that the Kozai mechanism consistently produces an excess of planets with very high (e >0.6) and very low (e < 0.1) eccentricities. The paucity of near-circular orbits in the observed sample cannot be explained solely by the Kozai mechanism, because, even with high enough inclinations, the Kozai mechanism often fails to produce significant eccentricity perturbations when there are other competing sources of orbital perturbations on secular timescales, such as general relativity. On the other hand, the Kozai mechanism can produce many highly eccentric orbits. Indeed the overproduction of high eccentricities observed in our models could be combined with plausible circularizing mechanisms (e.g., friction from residual gas) to create more intermediate eccentricities (e=0.1-0.6).
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