Secular Dynamics and Chaos in Multi-Planet Systems
Based on data from the Kepler mission, we now think that planet formation is "fertile" (that is, multi-planet systems are more likely than would be expected from a Poisson distribution). In systems with multiple planets, the planets can influence each other gravitationally; we believe that many of the systems we observe bear the imprint of gravitational interactions between their constituent planets.
This project would use an in-house code that is capable of rapidly simulating the secular (long-timescale) gravitational interactions between planets to explore the effects of these interactions.
Possible areas of investigation include:
The effects of (unobserved) distant planets on inner planets, possibly including coherent Kozai oscillations of the inner planets and subsequent tidal circularization producing systems like the five-planet Kepler 20.
Statistical studies of the effects of secular interactions and particularly chaos on the observed population of extra solar planets. This project would involve both dynamical calculations and also statistical analysis of existing exoplanet data.
Generalization of the existing code to incorporate brief periods of short-timescale interactions between the planets by transiting to traditional N-body integrators for these times and reverting to the secular approximation when possible. Such a code would have the short runtime of the secular code, but include all gravitational effects when necessary.
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FTE Category A staff submitted: 39.00
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