Exoplanets & Exomoons

The Fragility of the Terrestrial Planets During a Giant Planet Instability

By Keith Cowing
October 30, 2015
Filed under
The Fragility of the Terrestrial Planets During a Giant Planet Instability

Many features of the outer solar system are replicated in numerical simulations if the giant planets undergo an orbital instability that ejects one or more ice giants.

During this instability, Jupiter and Saturn’s orbits diverge, crossing their 2:1 mean motion resonance (MMR), and this resonance-crossing can excite the terrestrial planet orbits. Using a large ensemble of simulations of this giant planet instability, we directly model the evolution of the terrestrial planet orbits during this process, paying special attention to systems that reproduce the basic features of the outer planets. In systems that retain four giant planets and finish with Jupiter and Saturn beyond their 2:1 MMR, we find at least an 85% probability that at least one terrestrial planet is lost.

Moreover, systems that manage to retain all four terrestrial planets often finish with terrestrial planet eccentricities and inclinations larger than the observed ones. There is less than a ~5% chance that the terrestrial planet orbits will have a level of excitation comparable to the observed orbits. If we factor in the probability that the outer planetary orbits are well-replicated, we find a probability of 1% or less that the orbital architectures of the inner and outer planets are simultaneously reproduced in the same system. These small probabilities raise the prospect that the giant planet instability occurred before the terrestrial planets had formed.

This scenario implies that the giant planet instability is not the source of the Late Heavy Bombardment and that terrestrial planet formation finished with the giant planets in their modern configuration.

Nathan A. Kaib, John E. Chambers
(Submitted on 28 Oct 2015)

Comments: Accepted to MNRAS, 10 pages, 5 figures, 2 tables
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1510.08448 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1510.08448v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Nathan Kaib
[v1] Wed, 28 Oct 2015 20:04:59 GMT (1217kb,D)

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