Constraining the origin of giant exoplanets via elemental abundance measurements

H. Knierim, S. Shibata, R. Helled

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The origin of close-in giant planets is a key open question in planet formation theory. The two leading models are (i) formation at the outer disk followed by migration and (ii) in situ formation. In this work we determine the atmospheric composition of warm Jupiters for both formation scenarios. We perform N-body simulations of planetesimal accretion interior and exterior to the water ice-line for various planetary formation locations, planetary masses, and planetesimal sizes to estimate the accreted heavy-element mass and final planetary composition. We find that the two models differ significantly: migrating giant planets have 2-14 times higher metallicities than planets that form in situ. The ratio between refractories and volatiles is found to be above one for migrating planets but below 0.4 for planets that form in situ. We also identify very different trends between heavy-element enrichment and planetary mass for these two formation mechanisms. While the metallicity of migrating planets is found to increase with decreasing planetary mass, it is about constant for in situ formation. Our study highlights the importance of measuring the atmospheric composition of warm Jupiters and its connection to their formation and evolutionary paths.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL5
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung51NF40_182901, 51NF40_205606, 200020_188460


    • Planet-disk interactions
    • Planets and satellites: atmospheres
    • Planets and satellites: composition
    • Planets and satellites: formation
    • Planets and satellites: fundamental parameters
    • Planets and satellites: physical evolution


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