‘Hot Jupiters’ may not be orbiting alone

Result challenges longstanding beliefs about the isolation of “hot Jupiters”.

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Gas giant planets known as hot Jupiters have orbits less than ten days long and orbit around stars outside our solar system. Hot Jupiters are thought to have originated and evolved through a violent process that ejected other planets from the region as they drew closer to their home stars. Previous investigations revealed they rarely have any nearby companion planets.

But a new study challenges longstanding beliefs about the isolation of “hot Jupiters.” It suggests that hot Jupiters don’t always orbit by themselves.

The study led by an Indiana University astronomer proposes a new mechanism for understanding the exoplanets’ evolution.

The entire four-year data collection for hot and warm Jupiters from NASA’s Kepler Mission was examined by researchers. The orbital period of warm Jupiter lasts from 10 to 300 days. According to research using transit time variations, at least 12% of hot Jupiters and 70% of warm Jupiters have a nearby planetary companion orbiting their host stars.

Scientists combined their findings with pre-existing observational constraints to provide a novel framework for explaining the evolution of hot and warm Jupiters and why some of them have companion planets. They found that the presence of gas giants in the system, which affects how much the planets interact and migrate, determines the composition of hot and warm Jupiter systems.

The results serve as a springboard for further investigation into exoplanets and the planets of our solar system.

“Our research shows that at least a fraction of hot Jupiters cannot form through a violent process,” said Songhu Wang, assistant professor of astronomy at the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a significant contribution to advance our understanding of hot Jupiter formation, which can help us learn more about our solar system.”

The study results are presented at the June 2023 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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