Dynamical simulations of extrasolar planetary systems with debris disks using a GPU accelerated N-body code

Alexander Moore
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
University of Rochester, 2013


   title={Dynamical simulations of extrasolar planetary systems with debris disks using a GPU accelerated N-body code},

   author={Moore, Alexander},


   school={University of Rochester}


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This thesis begins with a description of a hybrid symplectic integrator named QYMSYM which is capable of planetary system simulations. This integrator has been programmed with the Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) language which allows for implementation on Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). With the enhanced compute performance made available by this choice, QYMSYM was used to study the effects debris disks have on the dynamics of the extrasolar planetary systems HR 8799 and KOI-730. The four planet system HR 8799 was chosen because it was known to have relatively small regions of stability in orbital phase space. Using this fact, it can be shown that a simulated debris disk of moderate mass around HR 8799 can easily pull this system out of these regions of stability. In other cases it is possible to migrate the system to a region of stability – although this requires significantly more mass and a degree of fine tuning. These findings suggest that previous studies on the stability of HR 8799 which do not include a debris disk may not accurately report on the size and location of the stable orbital phase space available for the planets. This insight also calls into question the practice of using dynamical simulations to help constrain observed planetary orbital data. Next, by studying the stability of another four planet system, KOI-730, whose planets are in an 8:6:4:3 mean motion resonance, we were additionally able to determine mass constraints on debris disks for KOI-730 like Kepler objects. Noting that planet inclinations increase by a couple of degrees when migrating through a Neptune mass debris disk, and that planet candidates discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope are along the line of site, it is concluded that significant planetary migration did not occur among the Kepler objects. This result indicates that Kepler objects like KOI-730 have relatively small or stable debris disks which did not cause migration of their planets – ruling out late-heavy bombardment style events. In both cases, the inclusion of debris disks in our simulations provided new results or useful constraints.
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