skip to main content

Title: Pluto near the edge of chaos
Many of the unusual properties of Pluto’s orbit are widely accepted as evidence for the orbital migration of the giant planets in early solar system history. However, some properties remain an enigma. Pluto’s long-term orbital stability is supported by two special properties of its orbit that limit the location of its perihelion in azimuth and in latitude. We revisit Pluto’s orbital dynamics with a view to elucidating the individual and collective gravitational effects of the giant planets on constraining its perihelion location. While the resonant perturbations from Neptune account for the azimuthal constraint on Pluto’s perihelion location, we demonstrate that the long-term and steady persistence of the latitudinal constraint is possible only in a narrow range of additional secular forcing which arises fortuitously from the particular orbital architecture of the other giant planets. Our investigations also find that Jupiter has a largely stabilizing influence whereas Uranus has a largely destabilizing influence on Pluto’s orbit. Overall, Pluto’s orbit is rather surprisingly close to a zone of strong chaos.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The most distant known trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), those with perihelion distance above 38 au and semimajor axis above 150 au, are of interest for their potential to reveal past, external, or present but unseen perturbers. Realizing this potential requires understanding how the known planets influence their orbital dynamics. We use a recently developed Poincaré mapping approach for orbital phase space studies of the circular planar restricted three-body problem, which we have extended to the case of the 3D restricted problem withNplanetary perturbers. With this approach, we explore the dynamical landscape of the 23 most distant TNOs under the perturbations of the known giant planets. We find that, counter to common expectations, almost none of these TNOs are far removed from Neptune’s resonances. Nearly half (11) of these TNOs have orbits consistent with stable libration in Neptune’s resonances; in particular, the orbits of TNOs 148209 and 474640 overlap with Neptune’s 20:1 and 36:1 resonances, respectively. Five objects can be ruled currently nonresonant, despite their large orbital uncertainties, because our mapping approach determines the resonance boundaries in angular phase space in addition to semimajor axis. Only three objects are in orbital regions not appreciably affected by resonances: Sedna, 2012 VP113 and 2015 KG163. Our analysis also demonstrates that Neptune’s resonances impart a modest (few percent) nonuniformity in the longitude of perihelion distribution of the currently observable distant TNOs. While not large enough to explain the observed clustering, this small dynamical sculpting of the perihelion longitudes could become relevant for future, larger TNO data sets.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract We report the discovery of TOI-2180 b, a 2.8 M J giant planet orbiting a slightly evolved G5 host star. This planet transited only once in Cycle 2 of the primary Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission. Citizen scientists identified the 24 hr single-transit event shortly after the data were released, allowing a Doppler monitoring campaign with the Automated Planet Finder telescope at Lick Observatory to begin promptly. The radial velocity observations refined the orbital period of TOI-2180 b to be 260.8 ± 0.6 days, revealed an orbital eccentricity of 0.368 ± 0.007, and discovered long-term acceleration from a more distant massive companion. We conducted ground-based photometry from 14 sites spread around the globe in an attempt to detect another transit. Although we did not make a clear transit detection, the nondetections improved the precision of the orbital period. We predict that TESS will likely detect another transit of TOI-2180 b in Sector 48 of its extended mission. We use giant planet structure models to retrieve the bulk heavy-element content of TOI-2180 b. When considered alongside other giant planets with orbital periods over 100 days, we find tentative evidence that the correlation between planet mass and metal enrichment relative to stellar is dependent on orbital properties. Single-transit discoveries like TOI-2180 b highlight the exciting potential of the TESS mission to find planets with long orbital periods and low irradiation fluxes despite the selection biases associated with the transit method. 
    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT We considered four TNOs on elongated orbits with small semimajor axis uncertainties: Sedna, 2004 VN112, 2012 VP113, and 2000 CR105. We found two sets of simultaneous near commensurabilities for these objects with a putative Planet Nine that are compatible with the current uncertainties in the objects’ orbital periods. We conducted a large number of numerical simulations of quasi-coplanar simulations (i.e. inclinations of Planet Nine and TNOs set to zero but not the giant planets) to find which values of Planet Nine’s mean anomaly and longitude of perihelion could put these objects in stable mean motion resonance (MMR) librations. We found no cases of simultaneous stable librations for multiple TNOs for more than 800 My, with most librations lasting much shorter than this time-scale. The objects 2004 VN112 and 2000 CR105 are the most unstable. Being in an MMR is not a strict requirement for long-term survival in 3D simulations, so our result cannot be used to refute Planet Nine’s existence. Nevertheless, it casts doubt and shows that theoretical attempts to constrain the position of the planet on the sky are not possible. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    HR 8799 is a young A5/F0 star hosting four directly imaged giant planets at wide separations (∼16–78 au), which are undergoing orbital motion and have been continuously monitored with adaptive optics imaging since their discovery over a decade ago. We present a dynamical mass of HR 8799 using 130 epochs of relative astrometry of its planets, which include both published measurements and new medium-band 3.1μm observations that we acquired with NIRC2 at Keck Observatory. For the purpose of measuring the host-star mass, each orbiting planet is treated as a massless particle and is fit with a Keplerian orbit using Markov chain Monte Carlo. We then use a Bayesian framework to combine each independent total mass measurement into a cumulative dynamical mass using all four planets. The dynamical mass of HR 8799 is1.470.17+0.12Massuming a uniform stellar mass prior, or1.460.15+0.11Mwith a weakly informative prior based on spectroscopy. There is a strong covariance between the planets’ eccentricities and the total system mass; when the constraint is limited to low-eccentricity solutions ofe< 0.1, which are motivated by dynamical stability, our mass measurement improves to1.430.07+0.06M. Our dynamical mass and other fundamental measured parameters of HR 8799 together with Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics Isochrones and Stellar Tracks grids yields a bulk metallicity most consistent with [Fe/H] ∼ −0.25–0.00 dex and an age of 10–23 Myr for the system. This implies hot-start masses of 2.7–4.9MJupfor HR 8799 b and 4.1–7.0MJupfor HR 8799 c, d, and e, assuming they formed at the same time as the host star.

    more » « less

    Theories of planet formation give contradicting results of how frequent close-in giant planets of intermediate mass stars (IMSs; $1.3\le M_{\star }\le 3.2\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$) are. Some theories predict a high rate of IMSs with close-in gas giants, while others predict a very low rate. Thus, determining the frequency of close-in giant planets of IMSs is an important test for theories of planet formation. We use the CoRoT survey to determine the absolute frequency of IMSs that harbour at least one close-in giant planet and compare it to that of solar-like stars. The CoRoT transit survey is ideal for this purpose, because of its completeness for gas-giant planets with orbital periods of less than 10 d and its large sample of main-sequence IMSs. We present a high precision radial velocity follow-up programme and conclude on 17 promising transit candidates of IMSs, observed with CoRoT. We report the detection of CoRoT–34b, a brown dwarf close to the hydrogen burning limit, orbiting a 1.1 Gyr A-type main-sequence star. We also confirm two inflated giant planets, CoRoT–35b, part of a possible planetary system around a metal-poor star, and CoRoT–36b on a misaligned orbit. We find that $0.12 \pm 0.10\, {{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of IMSs between $1.3\le M_{\star }\le 1.6\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$ observed by CoRoT do harbour at least one close-in giant planet. This is significantly lower than the frequency ($0.70 \pm 0.16\, {{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) for solar-mass stars, as well as the frequency of IMSs harbouring long-period planets ($\sim 8\, {{\ \rm per\ cent}}$).

    more » « less