Driving white dwarf metal pollution through unstable eccentric periodic orbits

Kyriaki Antoniadou, Dimitri Veras

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Abstract

Context. Planetary debris is observed in the atmospheres of over 1000 white dwarfs, and two white dwarfs are now observed to contain orbiting minor planets. Exoasteroids and planetary core fragments achieve orbits close to the white dwarf through scattering with major planets. However, the architectures that allow for this scattering to take place are time-consuming to explore with N-body simulations lasting ∼10 10 yr; these long-running simulations restrict the amount of phase space that can be investigated. Aims. Here we use planar and three-dimensional (spatial) elliptic periodic orbits, as well as chaotic indicators through dynamical stability maps, as quick scale-free analytic alternatives to N-body simulations in order to locate and predict instability in white dwarf planetary systems that consist of one major and one minor planet on very long timescales. We then classify the instability according to ejection versus collisional events. Methods. We generalized our previous work by allowing eccentricity and inclination of the periodic orbits to increase, thereby adding more realism but also significantly more degrees of freedom to our architectures. We also carried out a suite of computationally expensive 10 Gyr N-body simulations to provide comparisons with chaotic indicators in a limited region of phase space. Results. We compute dynamical stability maps that are specific to white dwarf planetary systems and that can be used as tools in future studies to quickly estimate pollution prospects and timescales for one-planet architectures. We find that these maps also agree well with the outcomes of our N-body simulations. Conclusions. As observations of metal-polluted white dwarfs mount exponentially, particularly in the era of Gaia, tools such as periodic orbits can help infer dynamical histories for ensembles of systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA126
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume629
Issue numberA126
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Celestial mechanics
  • Chaos
  • Kuiper belt: general
  • Minor planets, asteroids: general
  • Planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
  • White dwarfs

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