Exoplanet orbital eccentricity: Multiplicity relation and the Solar System

Mary Anne Limbach, Edwin L. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

The known population of exoplanets exhibits a much wider range of orbital eccentricities than Solar System planets and has a much higher average eccentricity. These facts have been widely interpreted to indicate that the Solar System is an atypical member of the overall population of planetary systems. We report here on a strong anticorrelation of orbital eccentricity with multiplicity (number of planets in the system) among cataloged radial velocity (RV) systems. The mean, median, and rough distribution of eccentricities of Solar System planets fits an extrapolation of this anticorrelation to the eight-planet case rather precisely despite the fact that no more than two Solar System planets would be detectable with RV data comparable to that in the exoplanet sample. Moreover, even if regarded as a single or double planetary system, the Solar System lies in a reasonably heavily populated region of eccentricity-multiplicity space. Thus, the Solar System is not anomalous among known exoplanetary systems with respect to eccentricities when its multiplicity is taken into account. Specifically, as the multiplicity of a system increases, the eccentricity decreases roughly as a power law of index -1.20. A simple and plausible but ad hoc and model-dependent interpretation of this relationship implies that ∼80% of the one-planet and 25% of the two-planet systems in our sample have additional, as yet undiscovered, members but that systems of higher observed multiplicity are largely complete (i.e., relatively rarely contain additional undiscovered planets). If low eccentricities indeed favor high multiplicities, habitability may be more common in systems with a larger number of planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-24
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 6 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Dynamical evolution
  • Orbital eccentricities
  • Radial velocity
  • Solar system

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