Published: Feb. 22, 2013

Dynamical mysteries of extrasolar planetary systems

Phil Armitage


Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA)

Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder


Date and time: 

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 1:00pm


Observations from the ground and from NASA's Kepler satellite have identified thousands of confirmed or candidate extrasolar planetary systems. The dynamical properties of many of these systems are quite alien; they include counter-rotating giant planets and compact systems of super-Earths that lie entirely within the orbital radius of Mercury. A central question is to determine whether different formation processes, or different dynamics, is responsible for the qualitative distinction between extrasolar planetary systems and our own. I will summarize current thinking on this issue, and describe our own work which suggests that violent dynamical instabilities may play a role in shaping many planetary systems.