Secular orbital dynamics of hierarchical two-planet systems

Dimitri Veras, Eric B. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The discovery of multi-planet extrasolar systems has kindled interest in using their orbital evolution as a probe of planet formation. Accurate descriptions of planetary orbits identify systems that could hide additional planets or be in a special dynamical state, and inform targeted follow-up observations. We combine published radial velocity data with Markov Chain Monte Carlo analyses in order to obtain an ensemble of masses, semimajor axes, eccentricities, and orbital angles for each of the five dynamically active multi-planet systems: HD 11964, HD 38529, HD 108874, HD 168443, and HD 190360. We dynamically evolve these systems using 52,000 long-term N-body integrations that sample the full range of possible line-of-sight and relative inclinations, and we report on the system stability, secular evolution, and the extent of the resonant interactions. We find that planetary orbits in hierarchical systems exhibit complex dynamics and can become highly eccentric and maybe significantly inclined. Additionally, we incorporate the effects of general relativity in the long-term simulations and demonstrate that it can qualitatively affect the dynamics of some systems with high relative inclinations. The simulations quantify the likelihood of different dynamical regimes for each system and highlight the dangers of restricting simulation phase space to a single set of initial conditions or coplanar orbits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-822
Number of pages20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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