Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy

, Volume 113, Issue 4, pp 387–402 | Cite as

Interaction of free-floating planets with a star–planet pair

  • Harry VarvoglisEmail author
  • Vasiliki Sgardeli
  • Kleomenis Tsiganis
Original Article


The recent discovery of free-floating planets and their theoretical interpretation as celestial bodies, either condensed independently or ejected from parent stars in tight clusters, introduced an intriguing possibility. Namely, that some exoplanets are not condensed from the protoplanetary disk of their parent star. In this novel scenario a free-floating planet interacts with an already existing planetary system, created in a tight cluster, and is captured as a new planet. In the present work we study this interaction process by integrating trajectories of planet-sized bodies, which encounter a binary system consisting of a Jupiter-sized planet revolving around a Sun-like star. To simplify the problem we assume coplanar orbits for the bound and the free-floating planet and an initially parabolic orbit for the free-floating planet. By calculating the uncertainty exponent, a quantity that measures the dependence of the final state of the system on small changes of the initial conditions, we show that the interaction process is a fractal classical scattering. The uncertainty exponent is in the range (0.2–0.3) and is a decreasing function of time. In this way we see that the statistical approach we follow to tackle the problem is justified. The possible final outcomes of this interaction are only four, namely flyby, planet exchange, capture or disruption. We give the probability of each outcome as a function of the incoming planet’s mass. We find that the probability of exchange or capture (in prograde as well as retrograde orbits and for very long times) is non-negligible, a fact that might explain the possible future observations of planetary systems with orbits that are either retrograde (see e.g. Queloz et al. Astron. Astrophys. 417, L1, 2010) or tight and highly eccentric.


Planetary systems Numerical methods Planet exchange Temporary capture 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry Varvoglis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vasiliki Sgardeli
    • 1
  • Kleomenis Tsiganis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece

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