Unstable low-mass planetary systems as drivers of white dwarf pollution

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Unstable low-mass planetary systems as drivers of white dwarf pollution. / Mustill, Alexander J.; Villaver, Eva; Veras, Dimitri; Gänsicke, Boris T.; Bonsor, Amy.

I: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 476, 01.05.2018, s. 3939-3955.

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

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Mustill, Alexander J. ; Villaver, Eva ; Veras, Dimitri ; Gänsicke, Boris T. ; Bonsor, Amy. / Unstable low-mass planetary systems as drivers of white dwarf pollution. I: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 2018 ; Vol. 476. s. 3939-3955.

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Unstable low-mass planetary systems as drivers of white dwarf pollution

AU - Mustill, Alexander J.

AU - Villaver, Eva

AU - Veras, Dimitri

AU - Gänsicke, Boris T.

AU - Bonsor, Amy

PY - 2018/5/1

Y1 - 2018/5/1

N2 - At least 25 percent of white dwarfs show atmospheric pollution by metals, sometimes accompanied by detectable circumstellar dust/gas discs or (in the case of WD 1145+017) transiting disintegrating asteroids. Delivery of planetesimals to the white dwarf by orbiting planets is a leading candidate to explain these phenomena. Here, we study systems of planets and planetesimals undergoing planet–planet scattering triggered by the star's post-main-sequence mass loss, and test whether this can maintain high rates of delivery over the several Gyr that they are observed. We find that low-mass planets (Earth to Neptune mass) are efficient deliverers of material and can maintain the delivery for Gyr. Unstable low-mass planetary systems reproduce the observed delayed onset of significant accretion, as well as the slow decay in accretion rates at late times. Higher-mass planets are less efficient, and the delivery only lasts a relatively brief time before the planetesimal populations are cleared. The orbital inclinations of bodies as they cross the white dwarf's Roche limit are roughly isotropic, implying that significant collisional interactions of asteroids, debris streams and discs can be expected. If planet–planet scattering is indeed responsible for the pollution of white dwarfs, many such objects, and their main-sequence progenitors, can be expected to host (currently undetectable) super-Earth planets on orbits of several au and beyond.

AB - At least 25 percent of white dwarfs show atmospheric pollution by metals, sometimes accompanied by detectable circumstellar dust/gas discs or (in the case of WD 1145+017) transiting disintegrating asteroids. Delivery of planetesimals to the white dwarf by orbiting planets is a leading candidate to explain these phenomena. Here, we study systems of planets and planetesimals undergoing planet–planet scattering triggered by the star's post-main-sequence mass loss, and test whether this can maintain high rates of delivery over the several Gyr that they are observed. We find that low-mass planets (Earth to Neptune mass) are efficient deliverers of material and can maintain the delivery for Gyr. Unstable low-mass planetary systems reproduce the observed delayed onset of significant accretion, as well as the slow decay in accretion rates at late times. Higher-mass planets are less efficient, and the delivery only lasts a relatively brief time before the planetesimal populations are cleared. The orbital inclinations of bodies as they cross the white dwarf's Roche limit are roughly isotropic, implying that significant collisional interactions of asteroids, debris streams and discs can be expected. If planet–planet scattering is indeed responsible for the pollution of white dwarfs, many such objects, and their main-sequence progenitors, can be expected to host (currently undetectable) super-Earth planets on orbits of several au and beyond.

KW - Kuiper Belt: general

KW - planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability

KW - stars: AGB and post-AGB

KW - circumstellar matter

KW - planetary systems

KW - white dwarfs

KW - Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics

U2 - 10.1093/mnras/sty446

DO - 10.1093/mnras/sty446

M3 - Article

VL - 476

SP - 3939

EP - 3955

JO - Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

T2 - Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

JF - Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

SN - 1365-2966

ER -