What is the Mass of α Cen B b?


We investigate the possibility of constraining the sin i degeneracy of α Cen B b—with orbital period P = 3.24 days; a = 0.042 AU; m sin i = 1.1 M—to estimate the true mass of the newly reported terrestrial exoplanet in the nearest stellar system to our Sun. We present detailed numerical simulations of the dynamical stability of the exoplanet in the α Cen AB binary system for a range of initial inclinations, eccentricities, and semimajor axes. The system represents a benchmark case for the interplay of the Kozai mechanism with general relativistic and tidal forces. From our simulations, there is only a small boundary in initial inclinations and initial semimajor axes which result in the migration via the Kozai mechanism of α Cen B b to its present location. Inside this boundary, the planet orbit is stable for up to 1 Gyr against the Kozai mechanism, and outside this boundary the planet collides with α Cen B or is ejected. In our three simulations where the planet migrates in toward the star via the Kozai mechanism, the final inclination is 46°–53° relative to the AB orbital plane, lower than the initial inclination of 75° in each case. We discuss inclination constraints from the formation of α Cen B b in situ at its present location, migration in a proto-planetary disk, or migration in resonance with additional planets. We conclude that α Cen B b probably has a mass of less than 2.7 M, implying a likely terrestrial composition warranting future confirmation.


Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Science

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The Astrophysical Journal