Star hoppers: Planet instability and capture in evolving binary systems

Kaitlin M. Kratter, Hagai B. Perets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Many planets are observed in stellar binary systems, and their frequency may be comparable to that of planetary systems around single stars. Binary stellar evolution in such systems influences the dynamical evolution of the resident planets. Here, we study the evolution of a single planet orbiting one star in an evolving binary system. We find that stellar evolution can trigger dynamical instabilities that drive planets into chaotic orbits. This instability leads to planet-star collisions, exchange of the planet between the binary stars ("star hoppers"), and ejection of the planet from the system. The means by which planets can be recaptured is similar to the pull-down capture mechanism for irregular solar system satellites. Because planets often suffer close encounters with the primary on the asymptotic giant branch, captures during a collision with the stellar envelope are also possible for more massive planets. Such capture could populate the habitable zone around white dwarfs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number91
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012


  • Binaries: general
  • Planets and satellites: general
  • Stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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