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Eccentricity growth and orbit flip in near-coplanar hierarchical three-body systems


The secular dynamical evolution of a hierarchical three-body system in which a distant third object orbits around a binary has been studied extensively, demonstrating that the inner orbit can undergo large eccentricity and inclination oscillations. It was shown before that starting with a circular inner orbit, large mutual inclination (40°-140°) can produce long timescale modulations that drive the eccentricity to extremely large values and can flip the orbit. Here, we demonstrate that starting with an almost coplanar configuration, for eccentric inner and outer orbits, the eccentricity of the inner orbit can still be excited to high values, and the orbit can flip by 180°, rolling over its major axis. The 180° flip criterion and the flip timescale are described by simple analytic expressions that depend on the initial orbital parameters. With tidal dissipation, this mechanism can produce counter-orbiting exoplanetary systems. In addition, we also show that this mechanism has the potential to enhance the tidal disruption or collision rates for different systems. Furthermore, we explore the entire e 1 and i 0 parameter space that can produce flips. © 2014. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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