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The Late-Time Formation and Dynamical Signatures of Small Planets

  • Author(s): Lee, Eve Jihyun
  • Advisor(s): Chiang, Eugene
  • et al.

The riddle posed by super-Earths is that they are not Jupiters: their core masses are large enough to trigger runaway gas accretion, yet somehow super-Earths accreted atmospheres that weigh only a few percent of their total mass. In this thesis, I demonstrate that this puzzle is solved if super-Earths formed late, in the inner cavities of transitional disks. Super-puffs present the inverse problem of being too voluminous for their small masses. I show that super-puffs most easily acquire their thick atmospheres as dust-free, rapidly cooling worlds outside 1 AU, and then migrate in just after super-Earths appear. Super-Earths and Earth-sized planets around FGKM dwarfs are evenly distributed in log orbital period down to ~10 days, but dwindle in number at shorter periods. I demonstrate that both the break at ~10 days and the slope of the occurrence rate down to ~1 day can be reproduced if planets form in disks that are truncated by their host star magnetospheres at co-rotation. Planets can be brought from disk edges to ultra-short (<1 day) periods by asynchronous equilibrium tides raised on their stars. Small planets may remain ubiquitous out to large orbital distances. I demonstrate that the variety of debris disk morphologies revealed by scattered light images can be explained by viewing an eccentric disk, secularly forced by a planet of just a few Earth masses, from different observing angles. The farthest reaches of planetary systems may be perturbed by eccentric super-Earths.

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