Orbital migration and the frequency of giant planet formation

D. E. Trilling, J. I. Lunine, W. Benz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


We present a statistical study of the post-formation migration of giant planets in a range of initial disk conditions. For given initial conditions we model the evolution of giant planet orbits under the influence of disk, stellar, and mass loss torques. We determine the mass and semi-major axis distribution of surviving planets after disk dissipation, for various disk masses, lifetimes, viscosities, and initial planet masses. The majority of planets migrate too fast and are destroyed via mass transfer onto the central star. Most surviving planets have relatively large orbital semi-major axes of several AU or larger. We conclude that the extrasolar planets observed to date, particularly those with small semi-major axes, represent only a small fraction (∼25% to 33%) of a larger cohort of giant planets around solar-type stars, and many undetected giant planets must exist at large (>1-2 AU) distances from their parent stars. As sensitivity and completion of the observed sample increase with time, this distant majority population of giant planets should be revealed. We find that the current distribution of extrasolar giant planet masses implies that high mass (more than 1-2 Jupiter masses) giant planet formation must be relatively rare. Finally, our simulations imply that the efficiency of giant planet formation must be high: at least 10% and perhaps as many as 80% of solar-type stars possess giant planets during their pre-main sequence phase. These predictions, including those for pre-main sequence stars, are testable with the next generation of ground- and space-based planet detection techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-251
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Solar system: formation
  • Stars: circumstellar matter
  • Stars: planetary systems
  • Stars: statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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