The orbital eccentricity of small planet systems

Vincent Van Eylen, Simon Albrecht, Xu Huang, Mariah G. MacDonald, Rebekah I. Dawson, Maxwell X. Cai, Daniel Foreman-Mackey, Mia S. Lundkvist, Victor Silva Aguirre, Ignas Snellen, Joshua N. Winn

The orbital eccentricity of small planet systems
See arXiv version
Accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal


We determine the orbital eccentricities of individual small Kepler planets, through a combination of asteroseismology and transit light-curve analysis. We are able to constrain the eccentricities of 51 systems with a single transiting planet, which supplement our previous measurements of 66 planets in multi-planet systems. Through a Bayesian hierarchical analysis, we find evidence that systems with only one detected transiting planet have a different eccentricity distribution than systems with multiple detected transiting planets. The eccentricity distribution of the single-transiting systems is well described by the positive half of a zero-mean Gaussian distribution with a dispersion \(\sigma_e = 0.32 \pm 0.06\), while the multiple-transit systems are consistent with \(\sigma_e = 0.083^{+0.015}_{-0.020}\). A mixture model suggests a fraction of \(0.76^{+0.21}_{-0.12}\) of single-transiting systems have a moderate eccentricity, represented by a Rayleigh distribution that peaks at \(0.26^{+0.04}_{-0.06}\). This finding may reflect differences in the formation pathways of systems with different numbers of transiting planets. We investigate the possibility that eccentricities are “self-excited” in closely packed planetary systems, as well as the influence of long-period giant companion planets. We find that both mechanisms can qualitatively explain the observations. We do not find any evidence for a correlation between eccentricity and stellar metallicity, as has been seen for giant planets. Neither do we find any evidence that orbital eccentricity is linked to the detection of a companion star. Along with this paper we make available all of the parameters and uncertainties in the eccentricity distributions, as well as the properties of individual systems, for use in future studies.

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