Stellar abundance of binary stars: Their role in determining the formation location of super-earths and ice giants

B. Bitsch, R. Forsberg, F. Liu, A. Johansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Binary stars form from the same parent molecular cloud and thus have the same chemical composition. Forming planets take building material (solids) away from the surrounding protoplanetary disc. Assuming that the disc's accretion on to the star is the main process that clears the disc, the atmosphere of the star will show abundance reductions caused by the material accreted by the forming planet(s). If planets are only forming around one star of a binary system, the planet formation process can result in abundance differences in wide binary stars, if their natal protoplanetary discs do not interact during planet formation. Abundance differences in the atmospheres of wide binaries hosting giant planets have already been observed and linked to the formation location of giant planets. Here, we model how much building material is taken away for super-Earth planets that form inside/outside of the water ice line as well as ice giants forming inside/outside of the CO ice line. Our model predicts a significant abundance difference δ[X/H] in the stellar atmospheres of the planet-hosting binary component. Our model predicts that super-Earths that form inside the water ice line (r < rH2O) will result in an δ[Fe/H]/δ[O/H] abundance difference in the their host star that is a factor of 2 larger than for super-Earths formed outside the water ice line (r > rH2O) in the water-rich parts of the disc. Additionally, our model shows that the δ[Fe/H]/δ[C/H] abundance difference in the host star is at least a factor of 3 larger for ice giants formed at r < rCO compared to ice giants formed far out in the protoplanetary disc (r > rCO). Future observations of wide binary star systems hosting super-Earths and ice giants could therefore help to constrain the migration pathway of these planets and thus constrain planet formation theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3690-3707
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 21

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology

Free keywords

  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Planet-disc interactions
  • Planets and satellites: formation
  • Protoplanetary discs


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