Stability of exomoons around the Kepler transiting circumbinary planets


Hamers, Adrian S.; Cai, Maxwell X.; Roa, Javier; Leigh, Nathan

Publication date: 
November, 2018
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS)

The Kepler mission has detected a number of transiting circumbinary planets (CBPs). Although currently not detected, exomoons could be orbiting some of these CBPs, and they might be suitable for harbouring life. A necessary condition for the existence of such exomoons is their long-term dynamical stability. Here, we investigate the stability of exomoons around the Kepler CBPs using numerical N-body integrations. We determine regions of stability and obtain stability maps in the (am, ipm) plane, where am is the initial exolunar semimajor axis with respect to the CBP, and ipm is the initial inclination of the orbit of the exomoon around the planet with respect to the orbit of the planet around the stellar binary. Ignoring any dependence on ipm, for most Kepler CBPs, the stability regions are well described by the location of the 1:1 mean motion commensurability of the binary orbit with the orbit of the moon around the CBP. This is related to a destabilizing effect of the binary compared to the case if the binary were replaced by a single body, and which is borne out by corresponding three-body integrations. For high inclinations, the evolution is dominated by Lidov-Kozai oscillations, which can bring moons in dynamically stable orbits to close proximity within the CBP, triggering strong interactions such as tidal evolution, tidal disruption, or direct collisions. This suggests that there is a dearth of highly inclined exomoons around the Kepler CBPs, whereas coplanar exomoons are dynamically allowed.