The survival rate of ejected terrestrial planets with moons

John H. Debes, Steinn Sigurdsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


During planet formation, a gas giant will interact with smaller protoplanets that stray within its sphere of gravitational influence. We investigate the outcome of interactions between gas giants and terrestrial-sized protoplanets with lunar-sized companions. An interaction between a giant planet and a protoplanet binary may have one of several consequences, including the delivery of volatiles to the inner system, the capture of retrograde moons by the giant planet, and the ejection of one or both of the protoplanets. We show that an interesting fraction of terrestrial-sized planets with lunar-sized companions will likely be ejected into interstellar space with the companion bound to the planet. The companion provides an additional source of heating for the planet from tidal dissipation of orbital and spin angular momentum. This heat flux typically is larger than the current radiogenic heating of the Earth for up to the first few hundred million years of evolution. In combination with an atmosphere of sufficient thickness and composition, the heating can provide the conditions necessary for liquid water to persist on the surface of the terrestrial-mass planet, making it a potential site for life. We also determine the possibility for directly detecting such systems through all-sky infrared surveys or microlensing surveys. Micro-lensing surveys in particular will directly measure the frequency of this phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L167-L170
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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