Fundamental Limits From Chaos On Instability Time Predictions In Compact Planetary Systems

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 14, 2020
Filed under
Fundamental Limits From Chaos On Instability Time Predictions In Compact Planetary Systems

Instabilities in compact planetary systems are generically driven by chaotic dynamics. This implies that an instability time measured through direct N-body integration is not exact, but rather represents a single draw from a distribution of equally valid chaotic trajectories.

In order to characterize the “errors” on reported instability times from direct N-body integrations, we investigate the shape and parameters of the instability time distributions (ITDs) for ensembles of shadow trajectories that are initially perturbed from one another near machine precision. We find that in the limit where instability times are long compared to the Lyapunov (chaotic) timescale, ITDs approach remarkably similar lognormal distributions with standard deviations ~0.43 ± 0.16 dex, despite the instability times varying across our sample from 104−108 orbits.

We find excellent agreement between these predictions, derived from ~450 closely packed configurations of three planets, and a much wider validation set of ~10,000 integrations, as well as on ~20,000 previously published integrations of tightly packed five-planet systems, and a seven-planet resonant chain based on TRAPPIST-1, despite their instability timescales extending beyond our analyzed timescale. We also test the boundary of applicability of our results on dynamically excited versions of our Solar System. These distributions define the fundamental limit imposed by chaos on the predictability of instability times in such planetary systems. It provides a quantitative estimate of the intrinsic error on an N-body instability time imprinted by chaos, approximately a factor of 3 in either direction.

Naireen Hussain, Daniel Tamayo
(Submitted on 14 Jan 2020)
Comments: 10 pages, 7 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz3402
Cite as: arXiv:2001.04606 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2001.04606v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Naireen Hussain Ms.
[v1] Tue, 14 Jan 2020 03:22:08 UTC (2,456 KB)

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) 🖖🏻