IV. Possibility of detecting the orbit-shrinking of a planet around a red giant
1 Geneva Observatory, University of Geneva, Maillettes 51, 1290 Sauverny, Switzerland
2 Physikalisches Institut & Center for Space and Habitability, Universitaet Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Received: 18 April 2017
Accepted: 26 May 2017
The surface rotations of some red giants are so fast that they must have been spun up by tidal interaction with a close companion, either another star, a brown dwarf, or a planet. We focus here on the case of red giants that are spun up by tidal interaction with a planet. When the distance between the planet and the star decreases, the spin period of the star decreases, the orbital period of the planet decreases, and the reflex motion of the star increases. We study the change rate of these three quantities when the circular orbit of a planet of 15 MJ that initially orbits a 2 M⊙ star at 1 au shrinks under the action of tidal forces during the red giant phase. We use stellar evolution models coupled with computations of the orbital evolution of the planet, which allows us to follow the exchanges of angular momentum between the star and the orbit in a consistent way. We obtain that the reflex motion of the red giant star increases by more than 1 m s-1 per year in the last ~40 yr before the planet engulfment. During this phase, the reflex motion of the star is between 660 and 710 m s-1. The spin period of the star increases by more than about 10 min per year in the last 3000 yr before engulfment. During this period, the spin period of the star is shorter than 0.7 yr. During this same period, the variation in orbital period, which is shorter than 0.18 yr, is on the same order of magnitude. Changes in reflex-motion and spin velocities are very small and thus most likely out of reach of being observed. The most promising way of detecting this effect is through observations of transiting planets, that is, through changes of the beginning or end of the transit. For the relatively long orbital periods expected around red giants, long observing runs of typically a few years are needed. Interesting star-planet systems that currently are in this stage of orbit-shrinking would be red giants with fast rotation (above typically 4−5 km s-1), a low surface gravity (log g lower than 2), and having a planet at a distance typically smaller than about 0.4−1 au, depending on log g. A space mission like PLATO might be of great interest for detecting planets that are on the verge of being engulfed by red giants. The discovery of a few systems, even only one, would provide very interesting clues about the physics of tidal interaction between a red giant and a planet.
Key words: planet-star interactions / stars: rotation / planets and satellites: detection
© ESO, 2017