Possible solutions to the radius anomalies of transiting giant planets

A. Burrows, I. Hubeny, J. Budaj, W. B. Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

313 Scopus citations


We calculate the theoretical evolution of the radii of all 14 of the known transiting extrasolar giant planets (EGPs) for a variety of assumptions concerning atmospheric opacity, dense inner core masses, and possible internal power sources. We incorporate the effects of stellar irradiation and customize such effects for each EGP and star. Looking collectively at the family as a whole, we find that there are in fact two radius anomalies to be explained. Not only are the radii of a subset of the known transiting EGPs larger than expected from previous theory, but many of the other objects are smaller than the default theory would allow. We suggest that the larger EGPs can be explained by invoking enhanced atmospheric opacities that naturally retain internal heat. This explanation might obviate the necessity for an extra internal power source. We explain the smaller radii by the presence in perhaps all the known transiting EGPs of dense cores, such as have been inferred for Saturn and Jupiter. Importantly, we derive a rough correlation between the masses of our "best-fit" cores and the stellar metallicity that seems to buttress the core-accretion model of their formation. Although many caveats and uncertainties remain, the resulting comprehensive theory that incorporates enhanced-opacity atmospheres and dense cores is in reasonable accord with all the current structural data for the known transiting giant planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-514
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - May 20 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Planetary systems
  • Planets and satellites: general


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