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    Stellar-mass binary black holes (BBHs) embedded in active galactic nucleus (AGN) discs offer a promising dynamical channel to produce black hole mergers that are detectable by LIGO/Virgo. Modelling the interactions between the disc gas and the embedded BBHs is crucial to understand their orbital evolution. Using a suite of 2D high-resolution simulations of prograde equal-mass circular binaries in local disc models, we systematically study how their hydrodynamical evolution depends on the equation of state (EOS; including the γ-law and isothermal EOS) and on the binary mass and separation scales (relative to the supermassive black hole mass and the Hill radius, respectively). We find that binaries accrete slower and contract in orbit if the EOS is far from isothermal such that the surrounding gas is diffuse, hot, and turbulent. The typical orbital decay rate is of the order of a few times the mass doubling rate. For a fixed EOS, the accretion flows are denser, hotter, and more turbulent around more massive or tighter binaries. The torque associated with accretion is often comparable to the gravitational torque, so both torques are essential in determining the long-term binary orbital evolution. We carry out additional simulations with non-accreting binaries and find that theirmore »orbital evolution can be stochastic and is sensitive to the gravitational softening length, and the secular orbital evolution can be very different from those of accreting binaries. Our results indicate that stellar-mass BBHs may be hardened efficiently under ideal conditions, namely less massive and wider binaries embedded in discs with a non-isothermal EOS.

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  2. Abstract

    High-eccentricity migration is a likely formation mechanism for many observed hot Jupiters, particularly those with a large misalignment between the stellar spin axis and orbital angular momentum axis of the planet. In one version of high-eccentricity migration, an inclined stellar companion excites von Zeipel–Lidov–Kozai (ZLK) eccentricity oscillations of a cold Jupiter, and tidal dissipation causes the planet’s orbit to shrink and circularize. Throughout this process, the stellar spin can evolve chaotically, resulting in highly misaligned hot Jupiters (HJs). Previous population studies of this migration mechanism have assumed that the stellar spin is aligned with the planetary orbital angular momentum when the companion begins to induce ZLK oscillations. However, in the presence of a binary companion, the star’s obliquity may be significantly excited during the dissipation of its protoplanetary disk. We calculate the stellar obliquities produced in the protoplanetary disk phase and use these to perform an updated population synthesis of ZLK-driven high-eccentricity migration with an F-type host star. We find that the resulting obliquity distribution of HJ systems is predominantly retrograde with a broad peak near 90°. The distribution we obtain has intriguing similarities to the recently observed preponderance of perpendicular planets close to their host stars.

  3. Abstract

    Hydrodynamical interactions between binaries and circumbinary disks (CBDs) play an important role in a variety of astrophysical systems, from young stellar binaries to supermassive black hole binaries. Previous simulations of CBDs have mostly employed locally isothermal equations of state. We carry out 2D viscous hydrodynamic simulations of CBDs around equal-mass, circular binaries, treating the gas thermodynamics by thermal relaxation toward equilibrium temperature (the constant-βcooling ansatz, whereβis the cooling time in units of the local Keplerian time). As an initial study, we use the grid-based codeAthena++on a polar grid, covering an extended disk outside the binary co-orbital region. We find that with a longer cooling time, the accretion variability is gradually suppressed, and the morphology of the CBD becomes more symmetric. The disk also shows evidence of hysteresis behavior depending on the initial conditions. Gas cooling also affects the rate of angular momentum transfer between the binary and the CBD, where given our adopted disk thickness and viscosity (H/r∼ 0.1 andα∼ 0.1), the binary orbit expands while undergoing accretion for mostβvalues between 0 and 4.0 except over a narrow range of intermediateβvalues. The validity of using a polar grid excising the central domain is also discussed.

  4. Abstract

    We study close encounters between two single black holes (BHs) embedded in an AGN disk using a series of global 2D hydrodynamics simulations. We find that when the disk density is sufficiently high, bound BH binaries can be formed by the collision of their circum-single disks. Our analysis demonstrates that, after a BH pair passes the pericenter of their relative trajectory, post-collision gas drag may slow down the BHs, possibly forcing the two BHs to stay tightly bound. A binary formed by a close encounter can have a compact semimajor axis, large eccentricity, and retrograde orbital angular momentum. We provide a fitting formula that can accurately predict whether a close encounter can form a binary based on the gas mass and the incoming energy of the encounter. This fitting formula can be easily implemented in other long-term simulations that study the dynamical evolution of BHs in active galactic nucleus disks.


    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 canmore »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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    Planets migrating in their natal discs can be captured into mean-motion resonance (MMR), in which the planets’ periods are related by integer ratios. Recent observations indicate that planets in MMR can be either apsidally aligned or anti-aligned. How these different configurations arise is unclear. In this paper, we study the MMR capture process of migrating planets, focusing on the property of the apsidal angles of the captured planets. We show that the standard picture of MMR capture, in which the planets undergo convergent migration and experience eccentricity damping due to planet–disc interactions, always leads to apsidal anti-alignment of the captured planets. However, when the planets experience eccentricity driving from the disc, apsidally aligned configuration in MMR can be produced. In this configuration, both planets’ resonance angles circulate, but a ‘mixed’ resonance angle librates and traps the planets near the nominal resonance location. The MMR capture process in the presence of disc eccentricity driving is generally complex and irregular, and can lead to various outcomes, including apsidal alignment and anti-alignment, as well as the disruption of the resonance. We suggest that the two resonant planets in the K2-19 system, with their moderate eccentricities and aligned apsides, have experienced eccentricity drivingmore »from their natal disc in the past.

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    Stellar-mass binary black holes (BBHs) embedded in active galactic nucleus (AGN) discs are possible progenitors of black hole mergers detected in gravitational waves by LIGO/VIRGO. To better understand the hydrodynamical evolution of BBHs interacting with the disc gas, we perform a suite of high-resolution 2D simulations of binaries in local disc (shearing-box) models, considering various binary mass ratios, eccentricities and background disc properties. We use the γ-law equation of state and adopt a robust post-processing treatment to evaluate the mass accretion rate, torque and energy transfer rate on the binary to determine its long-term orbital evolution. We find that circular comparable-mass binaries contract, with an orbital decay rate of a few times the mass doubling rate. Eccentric binaries always experience eccentricity damping. Prograde binaries with higher eccentricities or smaller mass ratios generally have slower orbital decay rates, with some extreme cases exhibiting orbital expansion. The averaged binary mass accretion rate depends on the physical size of the accretor. The accretion flows are highly variable, and the dominant variability frequency is the apparent binary orbital frequency (in the rotating frame around the central massive BH) for circular binaries but gradually shifts to the radial epicyclic frequency as the binary eccentricity increases.more »Our findings demonstrate that the dynamics of BBHs embedded in AGN discs is quite different from that of isolated binaries in their own circumbinary discs. Furthermore, our results suggest that the hardening time-scales of the binaries are much shorter than their migration time-scales in the disc, for all reasonable binary and disc parameters.

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    We study the long-term orbital evolution of stars around a merging massive or supermassive black hole binary (BHB), taking into account the general relativistic effect induced by the black hole (BH) spin. When the BH spin is significant compared to and misaligned with the binary orbital angular momentum, the orbital axis ($\hat{\boldsymbol {l}}$) of the circumbinary star can undergo significant evolution during the binary orbital decay driven by gravitational radiation. Including the spin effect of the primary (more massive) BH, we find that starting from nearly coplanar orbital orientations, the orbital axes $\hat{\boldsymbol {l}}$ of circumbinary stars preferentially evolve towards the spin direction after the merger of the BHB, regardless of the initial BH spin orientation. Such alignment phenomenon, i.e. small final misalignment angle between $\hat{\boldsymbol {l}}$ and the spin axis of the remnant BH $\hat{\boldsymbol {S}}$, can be understood analytically using the principle of adiabatic invariance. For the BHBs with extremely mass ratio (m2/m1 ≲ 0.01), $\hat{\boldsymbol {l}}$ may experience more complicated evolution as adiabatic invariance breaks down, but the trend of alignment still works reasonably well when the initial binary spin–orbit angle is relatively small. Our result suggests that the correlation between the orientations of stellar orbitsmore »and the spin axis of the central BH could provide a potential signature of the merger history of the massive BH.

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    Many Sun-like stars are observed to host close-in super-Earths (SEs) as part of a multiplanetary system. In such a system, the spin of the SE evolves due to spin–orbit resonances and tidal dissipation. In the absence of tides, the planet’s obliquity can evolve chaotically to large values. However, for close-in SEs, tidal dissipation is significant and suppresses the chaos, instead driving the spin into various steady states. We find that the attracting steady states of the SE’s spin are more numerous than previously thought, due to the discovery of a new class of ‘mixed-mode’ high-obliquity equilibria. These new equilibria arise due to subharmonic responses of the parametrically driven planetary spin, an unusual phenomenon that arises in non-linear systems. Many SEs should therefore have significant obliquities, with potentially large impacts on the physical conditions of their surfaces and atmospheres.


    Secular oscillations in multiplanet systems can drive chaotic evolution of a small inner body through non-linear resonant perturbations. This ‘secular chaos’ readily pushes the inner body to an extreme eccentricity, triggering tidal interactions or collision with the central star. We present a numerical study of secular chaos in systems with two planets and test particles using the ring-averaging method, with emphasis on the relationship between the planets’ properties and the time-scale and efficiency of chaotic diffusion. We find that secular chaos can excite extreme eccentricities on time-scales spanning several orders of magnitude in a given system. We apply our results to the evolution of planetary systems around white dwarfs (WDs), specifically the tidal disruption and high-eccentricity migration of planetesimals and planets. We find that secular chaos in a planetesimal belt driven by large (≳10 M⊕), distant ($\gtrsim 10 \, \mathrm{au}$) planets can sustain metal accretion on to a WD over Gyr time-scales. We constrain the total mass of planetesimals initially present within the chaotic zone by requiring that the predicted mass delivery rate to the Roche limit be consistent with the observed metal accretion rates of WDs with atmospheric pollution throughout the cooling sequence. Based on the occurrence ofmore »long-period exoplanets and exo-asteroid belts, we conclude that secular chaos can be a significant (perhaps dominant) channel for polluting solitary WDs. Secular chaos can also produce short-period planets and planetesimals around WDs in concert with various circularization mechanisms. We discuss prospects for detecting exoplanets driving secular chaos around WDs using direct imaging and microlensing.

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