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Title: Eccentric debris belts reveal the dynamical history of the companion exoplanet

In recent years, a number of eccentric debris belts have been observed in extrasolar systems. The most common explanation for their shape is the presence of a nearby eccentric planetary companion. The gravitational perturbation from such a companion would induce periodic eccentricity variations on the planetesimals in the belt, with a range of precession frequencies. The overall expected shape is an eccentric belt with a finite minimum width. However, several observed eccentric debris discs have been found to exhibit a narrower width than the theoretical expectation. In this paper, we study two mechanisms that can produce this small width: (i) the protoplanetary disc can interact with the planet and/or the planetesimals, slowly driving the eccentricity of the former and damping the eccentricities of the latter; and (ii) the companion planet could have gained its eccentricity stochastically, through planet–planet scatterings. We show that under appropriate conditions, both of these scenarios offer a plausible way to reduce the minimum width of an eccentric belt exterior to a perturbing planet. However, the effects of protoplanetary discs are diminished at large separations (a > 10 au) due to the scarcity of gas and the limited disc lifetime. These findings suggest that one can more » use the shape and width of debris discs to shed light on the evolution of extrasolar systems, constraining the protoplanetary disc properties and the prevalence of planet–planet scatterings. Further observations of debris-harbouring systems could confirm whether thin debris belts are a common occurrence, or the results of rare initial conditions or evolutionary processes.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 5544-5554
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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