Astronomy & Telescopes

Detectability of Free Floating Planets in Open Clusters with JWST

By Keith Cowing
November 6, 2013
Filed under ,
Detectability of Free Floating Planets in Open Clusters with JWST

Recent observations have shown the presence of extra-solar planets in Galactic open stellar clusters, as in the Praesepe (M44). These systems provide a favorable environment for planetary formation due to the high heavy-element content exhibited by the majority of their population.

The large stellar density, and corresponding high close-encounter event rate, may induce strong perturbations of planetary orbits with large semimajor axes. Here we present a set of N-body simulations implementing a novel scheme to treat the tidal effects of external stellar perturbers on planetary orbit eccentricity and inclination.

By simulating five nearby open clusters we determine the rate of occurrence of bodies extracted from their parent stellar system by quasi-impulsive tidal interactions. We find that the specific free-floating planet production rate (total number of free-floating planets per unit of time, normalized by the total number of stars) is proportional to the stellar density of the cluster, with a constant of proportionality equal to (23 +/- 5)10^-6 pc^3 Myr^-1.

For the Pleiades (M45) we predict that about 26% of stars should have lost their planets. This raises the exciting possibility of directly observing these wandering planets with the James Webb Space Telescope in the NIR band. Assuming a surface temperature of the planet of 500 K, a free-floating planet of Jupiter size inside the Pleiades would have a specific flux @4.4 micron of approximately 400 nJy, which would lead to a very clear detection (S/N of order 100) in only one hour of integration.

Fabio Pacucci, Andrea Ferrara, Elena D’Onghia (Submitted on 5 Nov 2013)

Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJ Letters on 4 November 2013

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1311.1201 [astro-ph.EP]

(or arXiv:1311.1201v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Fabio Pacucci [view email] [v1] Tue, 5 Nov 2013 21:00:01 GMT (351kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻