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Unlocking the secrets of chaotic planetary systems

11 Feb 2020, 20:07 UTC
Unlocking the secrets of chaotic planetary systems
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Title: Fundamental limits from chaos on instability time predictions in compact planetary systemsAuthors: Naireen Hussain, Daniel TamayoFirst Author’s Institution: Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, ONStatus: Accepted for Publication in MNRAS, preprint on arxivIt shows up in nearly every field of study – from weather forecasting, to physics, to economics – even sociology – and of course, astronomy. Chaos theory is the study of systems whose seemingly random behavior is the result of an extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. (For an excellent, more in-depth explanation of chaos, check out this astrobite). Chaos is a subject that commonly comes up when trying to understand the long-term stability of planetary systems.It turns out that certain arrangements of planets are inherently unstable – that is – if you place them in a certain configuration and let them orbit their star for long enough, the gravitational interactions between the planets will fling some (or sometimes all) of the bodies clear out of the system. Unfortunately, determining how and when this will happen is not possible to work out on paper. Or at least, no one has been clever enough to figure it out yet.Fortunately, computers make this problem somewhat tractable. By ...

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