We study in detail the motions of three planets interacting with each other under the influence of a central star. It is known that the system with more than two planets becomes unstable after remaining quasi-stable for long times, leading to highly eccentric orbital motions or ejections of some of the planets. In this paper, we are concerned with the underlying physics for this quasi-stability as well as the subsequent instability and advocate the so-called stagnant motion in the phase space, which has been explored in the field of a dynamical system. We employ the Lyapunov exponent, the power spectra of orbital elements, and the distribution of the durations of quasi-stable motions to analyze the phase-space structure of the three-planet system, the simplest and hopefully representative one that shows the instability. We find from the Lyapunov exponent that the system is almost non-chaotic in the initial quasi-stable state whereas it becomes intermittently chaotic thereafter. The non-chaotic motions produce the horizontal dense band in the action-angle plot whereas the voids correspond to the chaotic motions. We obtain power laws for the power spectra of orbital eccentricities. Power-law distributions are also found for the durations of quasi-stable states. With all these results combined together, we may reach the following picture: the phase space consists of the so-called KAM tori surrounded by satellite tori and imbedded in the chaotic sea. The satellite tori have a self-similar distribution and are responsible for the scale-free power-law distributions of the duration times. The system is trapped around one of the KAM torus and the satellites for a long time (the stagnant motion) and moves to another KAM torus with its own satellites from time to time, corresponding to the intermittent chaotic behaviors.
- Celestial mechanics
- Planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science