Secular behavior of exoplanets: Self-consistency and comparisons with the planet-planet scattering hypothesis

Miles Timpe, Rory Barnes, Ravikumar Kopparapu, Sean N. Raymond, Richard Greenberg, Noel Gorelick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


If mutual gravitational scattering among exoplanets occurs, then it may produce unique orbital properties. For example, two-planet systems that lie near the boundary between circulation and libration of their periapses could result if planet-planet scattering ejected a former third planet quickly, leaving one planet on an eccentric orbit and the other on a circular orbit. We first improve upon previous work that examined the apsidal behavior of known multiplanet systems by doubling the sample size and including observational uncertainties. This analysis recovers previous results that demonstrated that many systems lay on the apsidal boundary between libration and circulation. We then performed over 12,000 three-dimensional N-body simulations of hypothetical three-body systems that are unstable, but stabilize to two-body systems after an ejection. Using these synthetic two-planet systems, we test the planet-planet scattering hypothesis by comparing their apsidal behavior, over a range of viewing angles, to that of the observed systems and find that they are statistically consistent regardless of the multiplicity of the observed systems. Finally, we combine our results with previous studies to show that, from the sampled cases, the most likely planetary mass function prior to planet-planet scattering follows a power law with index -1.1. We find that this pre-scattering mass function predicts a mutual inclination frequency distribution that follows an exponential function with an index between -0.06 and -0.1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number63
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • methods: numerical
  • planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
  • planets and satellites: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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