Wednesday, June 5, 2013

1306.0592 (Amy Bonsor et al.)

The short-lived production of exozodiacal dust in the aftermath of a dynamical instability in planetary systems    [PDF]

Amy Bonsor, Sean Raymond, Jean-Charles Augereau
Excess emission, associated with warm, dust belts, commonly known as exozodis, has been observed around a third of nearby stars. The high levels of dust required to explain the observations are not generally consistent with steady-state evolution. A common suggestion is that the dust results from the aftermath of a dynamical instability, an event akin to the Solar System's Late Heavy Bombardment. In this work, we use a database of N-body simulations to investigate the aftermath of dynamical instabilities between giant planets in systems with outer planetesimal belts. We find that, whilst there is a significant increase in the mass of material scattered into the inner regions of the planetary system following an instability, this is a short-lived effect. Using the maximum lifetime of this material, we determine that even if every star has a planetary system that goes unstable, there is a very low probability that we observe more than a maximum of 1% of sun-like stars in the aftermath of an instability, and that the fraction of planetary systems currently in the aftermath of an instability is more likely to be limited to <0.06. This probability increases marginally for younger or higher mass stars. We conclude that the production of warm dust in the aftermath of dynamical instabilities is too short-lived to be the dominant source of the abundantly observed exozodiacal dust.
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