Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Impact of Gas Giant Instabilities on Habitable Planets

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 19, 2018
Filed under
Impact of Gas Giant Instabilities on Habitable Planets

The detection of many extrasolar gas giants with high eccentricities indicates that dynamical instabilities in planetary systems are common. These instabilities can alter the orbits of gas giants as well as the orbits of terrestrial planets and therefore eject or move a habitable planet out of the habitable zone.

In this work 423 simulations with 153 different hypothetical planetary systems with gas giants and terrestrial planets have been modelled to explore the orbital stability of habitable planets. The initial parameter variations include the number, distances and masses of the giant planets and the star type.

Linear correlations between the initial number and the initial distances of gas giants and the survival rate of habitable planets were found. Planetary systems consisting of two giant planets are fairly benign to terrestrial planets, whereas six giant planets very often lead to a complete clearing of the habitable zone. Systems with initial distances of five Hill Radii between the giant planets have a high chance to harbour a habitable planet, although more compact systems are very destructive.

The giant planet masses have a smaller impact on the stability of habitable worlds. Additionally, a link between the present-day orbit of an observed giant exoplanet and the survival rate of habitable planets was established. As a rule of thumb, observed gas giants with eccentricities higher than 0.4 and inclinations higher than 20 degrees have experienced strong planet-planet scatterings and are unlikely to have a habitable planet in its system. Furthermore, it was found that habitable planets surrounding a K or M-star have a higher survival rate than those surrounding a G-star.

Sonja Seppeur
(Submitted on 15 Feb 2018)

Comments: 12 pages, 15 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1802.05736 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1802.05736v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sonja Seppeur
[v1] Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:02:40 GMT (1661kb,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) πŸ––πŸ»