Eccentricity modulation of a close-in planet by a companion - application to GJ 436 system
AbstractGJ 436b is a Neptune-size planet with 23.2 Earth masses in an elliptical orbit of period 2.64 days and eccentricity 0.16. With a typical tidal dissipation factor (Q' ~ 10^6) as that of a giant planet with convective envelope, its orbital circularization timescale under internal tidal dissipation is around 1 Gyr, at least two times less than the stellar age (>3 Gyr). A plausible mechanism is that the eccentricity of GJ 436b is modulated by a planetary companion due to their mutual perturbation. Here we investigate this possibility from the dynamical viewpoint. A general method is given to predict the possible locations of the dynamically coupled companions, including in nearby/distance non-resonant or mean motion resonance orbits with the first planet. Applying the method to GJ 436 system, we find it is very unlikely that the eccentricity of GJ 436b is maintained at the present location by a nearby/distance companion through secular perturbation or mean motion resonance. In fact, in all these simulated cases, GJ 436b will undergo eccentricity damp and orbital decay, leaving the present location within the stellar age. However, these results do not rule out the possible existence of planet companions in nearby/distance orbits, although they are not able to maintain the eccentricity of GJ 436b.
Comment: 16 pages, 6 color figures. accepted for publication in "Science in China (G): Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy"