These animations show approximately 200,000 years of orbital evolution in the Kepler-223 planetary system. The planets’ interactions with the disk of gas and dust in which they formed caused their orbits to shrink toward their star over time at differing rates. Once two planets reach a resonant state (for example, one planet orbits its star three times every time the next planet orbits two times), the planets strongly interact with each other. The interactions become apparent in the animations as the orbits shrink (left and top right) when the orbital period ratios of neighboring planets (bottom right) get stuck at constant values. Even as the planets continue moving inwards (upper right) they do so in concert, migrating together locked in this configuration. They also cause each other’s orbits to change from nearly circular to elliptical. This is represented by the varying orbits on the left panel and the spread of the orbital distances for each individual planet in the upper right.
Published: May 12, 2016