Hot Super-Earths: accepted!

We have received the excellent news that my third paper has been accepted to ApJ. The paper is about possible mechanisms by which Earth-Neptune (low-)mass planets can reach very close orbits. Using standard models we find trends that might be found by future discoveries, and think about what we can learn from them.

Discovery of low-mass planets (which don’t have large Juipter-like atmospheres) will be particularly interesting, because they may be habitable due to (maybe) having solid surfaces. Unfortunately planets are much easier to find when they’re orbiting very close to their parent stars, and too hot to be habitable. Therefore, if they exist, the first decent sample of low mass planets will be discovered in short-period, close-in orbits.

It’s unlikely that planets in these orbits would form there, because it’s hard to form anything at all close to the star. Therefore, from a formation point of view, there are two main ways these planets
could get to close-in orbits after forming further out: by scattering off other planets, or by migrating through the disk out of which they form. In our paper, we show that planets that scatter will be hard to detect, and that migration is a better mechanism.

At present, very little is known about migration of planets in the “super-Earth” mass range, so discovery of these planets should tell us something about how migration works. Alternatively, we might not find any low-mass planets in short-period orbits, which would tell us that migration doesn’t work how current wisdom says. So either way we learn something!

The paper is posted on astro-ph for now, until the journal publishes it.

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