The Mass-Period Diagram
When J. Edgar Hoover was getting on in years, his aides would often tell scheduled visitors to his office that he was unable to meet with them because he was “in conference”. In reality, this meant that Hoover was napping at his desk.
It might seem that the refrain of, “we’re busy working on the systemic back-end” is an equally convenient euphemism for long lapses between posts on the front end. Nevertheless, we have been busy getting the new oklo xserve quad xeon up and running. The whole site has now been replicated and tested, the server is live and on air, and very shortly, we’ll be flipping the switch. Can’t wait, man!
With the vast increase in processing power afforded by the xserve, we’ll be able to provide a much more extensive suite of research tools to oklo visitors. In particular, it’ll be possible to dynamically generate the kinds of correlation diagrams that are currently only available from our estimable continental competition: exoplanet.eu.
It’s always interesting to look through the latest versions of the correlation diagrams to see whether the various trends and hints of trends are holding up. The a-e plot is worth examining, as is the plot that charts the number of planetary discoveries per year over the past decade. As of today, exoplanet.eu lists 192 planets that have been detected with the radial velocity method. Plotting the masses of these planets against their periods on a log-log plot (and running the resulting screenshot through Illustrator) yields the following:
For Keplerian orbits, the relationship between the radial velocity half-amplitude of the parent star and the orbital period of the planet is given by:
If we assume that the mass of the planet is negligible in comparison to the mass of the star and if we further assume edge-on, circular orbits around solar mass stars, then we get the dashed lines in the figure that show detection thresholds for K=3 m/s and K=1 m/s. The three planets orbiting HD 69830 stand out in this diagram as the most striking discoveries of 2006.
To the eye, there are two curious clusters of planets in the diagram. At short periods (P~3d) we have the hot Jupiters. Most of these have masses (times the sine of the unknown inclination) somewhat less than Jupiter. At longer periods (P>100d) we have a second prominent clump of planets. These are the Eccentric Giants, and their masses average out at a significantly higher value (between 2 and 3 times the mass of Jupiter). Part of the difference in mass is due to selection bias, but nevertheless there is a real effect. Like the planet-metallicity connection, this effect is telling us something about either planet formation or planet migration (probably the latter).
Anyone got an idea regarding what’s going on? Let’s get a discussion going in the comment section. Over the past week, I’ve been flooded by depressingly clumsy attempts at comment spam from single-minded robots with mechanical enthusiasms for satellite TV service and online poker, e.g. “Great blog, keep it comming.” It’d be nice to see some signal in the noise…