The Exo-planet Obliquity as a Fingerprint of Planetary Formation and Evolution

Lecar Prize Lecture
January 29, 2015
Tel Aviv University/ Wise Observatory

The angle between the stellar spin axis and the orbital planetary angular momentum of a planet, also referred to as the obliquity of the system, is a matter of intense study in recent years, for the transiting planets of the Kepler mission in particular. Some evidence was found for two populations of hot Jupiters - one around cool stars with orbits well-aligned with the stellar rotational axes, and the other around hot stars with isotropic distribution of obliquities, including planets with retrograde motion. It was suggested that the primordial planetary obliquity is isotropic, and cool stars have reached their zero-obliquity state by tidal re-alignment. The talk will discuss some observational techniques for measuring planetary obliquities, and will present a surprising statistical result that emerges from the study of Kepler light curves of stellar rotation, suggesting the alignment of cool stars is probably not the result of tidal interaction.