A criterion for the onset of chaos in compact, eccentric multiplanet systems

Daniel Tamayo, Norman Murray, Scott Tremaine, Joshua Winn

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16 Scopus citations


We derive a semianalytic criterion for the presence of chaos in compact, eccentric multiplanet systems. Beyond a minimum semimajor axis separation, below which the dynamics are chaotic at all eccentricities, we show that (i) the onset of chaos is determined by the overlap of two-body mean motion resonances (MMRs), like it is in twoplanet systems; and (ii) secular evolution causes the MMR widths to expand and contract adiabatically, so that the chaotic boundary is established where MMRs overlap at their greatest width. For closely spaced two-planet systems, a near symmetry strongly suppresses this secular modulation, explaining why the chaotic boundaries for two-planet systems are qualitatively different from cases with more than two planets. We use these results to derive an improved angular momentum deficit (AMD) stability criterion, i.e., the critical system AMD below which stability should be guaranteed. This introduces an additional factor to the expression from Laskar and Petit that is exponential in the interplanetary separations, which corrects the AMD threshold toward lower eccentricities by a factor of several for tightly packed configurations. We make routines for evaluating the chaotic boundary available to the community through the open-source SPOCK package.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number220
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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