Nature Versus Nurture: A Bayesian Framework for Assessing Apparent Correlations between Planetary Orbital Properties and Stellar Ages

Emily D. Safsten, Rebekah I. Dawson, Angie Wolfgang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many exoplanets have orbital characteristics quite different from those seen in our own solar system, including planets locked in orbital resonances and planets on orbits that are elliptical or highly inclined from their host star's spin axis. It is debated whether the wide variety in system architecture is primarily due to differences in formation conditions (nature) or due to evolution over time (nurture). Identifying trends between planetary and stellar properties, including stellar age, can help distinguish between these competing theories and offer insights as to how planets form and evolve. However, it can be challenging to determine whether observed trends between planetary properties and stellar age are driven by the age of the system - pointing to evolution over time being an important factor - or other parameters to which the age may be related, such as stellar mass or stellar temperature. The situation is complicated further by the possibilities of selection biases, small number statistics, uncertainties in stellar age, and orbital evolution timescales that are typically much shorter than the range of observed ages. Here, we develop a Bayesian statistical framework to assess the robustness of such observed correlations and to determine whether they are indeed due to evolutionary processes, are more likely to reflect different formation scenarios, or are merely coincidental. We apply this framework to reported trends between stellar age and 2:1 orbital resonances, spin-orbit misalignments, and hot Jupiters' orbital eccentricities. We find strong support for the nurture hypothesis only in the final case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number214
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume160
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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