Hydrodynamic outcomes of planet scattering in transitional discs


  • Nickolas Moeckel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA
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  • Philip J. Armitage

    1. JILA, 440 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0440, USA
    2. Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
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E-mail: moeckel@ast.cam.ac.uk


A significant fraction of unstable multiple planet systems are likely to scatter during the transitional disc phase as gas damping becomes ineffectual. Using a large ensemble of fargo hydrodynamic simulations and mercuryN-body integrations, we directly follow the dynamics of planet–disc and planet–planet interactions through the clearing phase and through 50 Myr of planetary system evolution. Disc clearing is assumed to occur as a result of X-ray-driven photoevaporation. We find that the hydrodynamic evolution of individual scattering systems is complex, and can involve phases in which massive planets orbit within eccentric gaps, or accrete directly from the disc without a gap. Comparing the results to a reference gas-free model, we find that the N-body dynamics and hydrodynamics of scattering into one- and two-planet final states are almost identical. The eccentricity distributions in these channels are almost unaltered by the presence of gas. The hydrodynamic simulations, however, also form a population of low-eccentricity three-planet systems in long-term stable configurations, which are not found in N-body runs. The admixture of these systems results in modestly lower eccentricities in hydrodynamic as opposed to gas-free simulations. The precise incidence of these three-planet systems is likely a function of the initial conditions; different planet set-ups (number or spacing) may change the quantitative character of this result. We analyse the properties of surviving multiple planet systems, and show that only a small fraction (a few per cent) enter mean motion resonances after scattering, while a larger fraction form stable resonant chains and avoid scattering entirely. Our results remain consistent with the hypothesis that exoplanet eccentricity results from scattering, though the detailed agreement between observations and gas-free simulation results is likely coincidental. We discuss the prospects for further tests of scattering models by observing planets or non-axisymmetric gas structure in transitional discs.