Institute of Astronomy

The Eccentric Kozai Mechanism and its Application to Boyajian’s Star

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Steven Young 17 November 2021Institute of Astronomy Seminars


Planetary systems have been found to be a common occurrence across the galaxy and consist of both planets and/or discs of planetesimals. The orbits of planetesimals in such discs can be perturbed by the presence of nearby massive bodies such as a distant companion star. These companions, if sufficiently inclined and eccentric, can excite planetesimals to extremely high eccentricities: an effect known as the ‘Eccentric Kozai Mechanism’. These planetesimals can then pass very close to their host star, possibly producing observable transits. This is one explanation for the deep, aperiodic dips in the light curve of Boyajian’s star which has recently been confirmed to have a wide binary companion. I will present a Monte Carlo model of the Kepler field to investigate how often this mechanism would be expected to produce such a signature and hence how important distant stellar companions are to the evolution of planetary systems.


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