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A&A
Volume 501, Number 3, July III 2009
Page(s) 1139 - 1160
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200810301
Published online 27 May 2009
A&A 501, 1139-1160 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200810301

Extrasolar planet population synthesis

I. Method, formation tracks, and mass-distance distribution
C. Mordasini1, Y. Alibert1, 2, and W. Benz1

1  Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
    e-mail: mordasini@mpia.de
2  Institut UTINAM, CNRS-UMR 6213, Observatoire de Besançon, BP 1615, 25010 Besançon Cedex, France

Received 1 June 2008 / Accepted 15 April 2009

Abstract
Context. With the high number of extrasolar planets discovered by now, it has become possible to use the properties of this planetary population to constrain theoretical formation models in a statistical sense. This paper is the first in a series in which we carry out a large number of planet population synthesis calculations within the framework of the core accretion scenario. We begin the series with a paper mainly dedicated to the presentation of our approach, but also the discussion of a representative synthetic planetary population of solar like stars. In the second paper we statistically compare the subset of detectable planets to the actual extrasolar planets. In subsequent papers, we shall extend the range of stellar masses and the properties of protoplanetary disks.
Aims. The last decade has seen a large observational progress in characterizing both protoplanetary disks, and extrasolar planets. Concurrently, progress was made in developing complex theoretical formation models. The combination of these three developments allows a new kind of study: the synthesis of a population of planets from a model, which is compared with the actual population. Our aim is to obtain a general overview of the population, to check if we quantitatively reproduce the most important observed properties and correlations, and to make predictions about the planets that are not yet observable.
Methods. Based as tightly as possible on observational data, we have derived probability distributions for the most important initial conditions for the planetary formation process. We then draw sets of initial conditions from these distributions and obtain the corresponding synthetic planets with our formation model. By repeating this step many times, we synthesize the populations.
Results. Although the main purpose of this paper is the description of our methods, we present some key results: we find that the variation of the initial conditions in the limits occurring in nature leads to the formation of planets of wide diversity. This formation process is best visualized in planetary formation tracks in the mass-semimajor axis diagram, where different phases of concurrent growth and migration can be identified. These phases lead to the emergence of sub-populations of planets distinguishable in a mass-semimajor axis diagram. The most important ones are the “failed cores”, a vast group of core-dominated low mass planets, the “horizontal branch”, a sub-population of Neptune mass planets extending out to 6 AU, and the “main clump”, a concentration of giant gaseous planets at around 0.3-2 AU.


Key words: stars: planetary systems -- stars: planetary systems: formation -- stars: planetary systems: protoplanetary disks -- planets and satellites: formation -- solar system: formation -- methods: numerical



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