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Resonant dynamics of Super-Earth systems

Abstract : Observations of hundreds of exoplanetary systems have produced a huge sample of orbital configurations, and the orbital periods are one of their better constrained and most astonishing properties. A common type of exoplanets are the Super-Earths, which have a mass between 1 and 20 Earth masses and a typical period of less than 100 days. The period ratio distribution of these planets poses a challenge to astrophysicists: during their formation, still embedded in the protoplanetary disc, we expect them to form chains of mean motion resonances, where the period ratio of neighbouring planets is close to a low-integer ratio. However, most Super-Earth systems are not close to resonance. In this thesis, I discuss key dynamical aspects of resonant chains: their formation, their evolution and their stability. I first give an overview of our current understanding of planetary formation, and an introduction of the methods used in the thesis: the tools of Hamiltonian dynamics, the planetary problem and perturbation theory. Then, I present the process of capture of planets migrating in protoplanetary discs into first order k : k − 1 mean motion resonances, including a novel analytical description of the corresponding planetary evolution, and I describe the relevant aspects of resonant dynamics in the planar approximation. The analytical treatment is supported by numerical N-body simulations which include the planet-disc interactions. Next, I expand on previous results on two-planet dissipative evolution in mean motion resonance and the resulting divergence of the planets’ semi-major axes. With a similar approach, I present a statistical method which allows to determine to what extent the observed architecture of a three-planet system is compatible with a dissipative resonant dynamical history. I then address the main problem of the stability of resonant chains. Previous works have shown that the over-all lack of resonances in the exoplanet sample is not in contradiction with resonant capture, if a post-disc phase of planetary instabilities is extremely common. Higher rates of instabilities are observed in synthetic systems where planets are most massive and the configurations most compact. Specific N-body experiments on the stability of resonant chains found that there is a critical planetary mass allowed for stability, which decreases with increasing number of planets and/or increasing value of k in the chain. The origin of these instabilities was however not discussed. I study the stability of resonant chains of equal-mass planets in terms of their mass, investigating analytically and numerically specific cases of two- and threeplanet systems. I find a dynamical mechanism which can trigger an excitation of the system, leading to mutual close-encounters and collisions. This can be generalised to an arbitrary number of planets and/or value of k in the resonant chain, and gives an analytical prediction for the critical mass allowed for stability which agrees qualitatively with the aforementioned numerical experiments. Finally, I describe a dynamical scenario that can explain the pollution of White Dwarfs with heavy elements. The idea is that compact planetary systems become unstable during the mass-loss phase characterising the end of the stellar evolution, so that impacts among planets lead to the generation of collisional debris. Expanding on previous works, I show that debris residing in mean motion resonance with an outer planetary perturber can have their orbital eccentricity excited to largeenough values to be engulfed by the host star, causing the observed pollution.
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Gabriele Pichierri. Resonant dynamics of Super-Earth systems. Astrophysics [astro-ph]. Université Côte d'Azur, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019AZUR4054⟩. ⟨tel-02438364⟩

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