Obliquity-Driven Sculpting of Exoplanetary Systems
Secular spin-orbit resonances can be encountered when planets sweep through commensurabilities between nodal and spin-axis precession frequencies, for example, during disk-driven migration or stellar contraction and spin down. These encounters can induce significant planetary spin-axis misalignment and capture into a “Cassini state”, a configuration involving synchronous precession of the planetary spin and orbital angular momentum vectors. We show that typical extrasolar systems – exemplified by the Kepler close-in, coplanar multiple-planet systems – frequently have nodal and spin-axis precession frequencies that are near-commensurable. This implies that obliquity-pumping should be common if the planets undergo any migration. We present analytic and numerical models of the spin evolution of typical Kepler-multi-type systems subject to the influences of disk migration, the quadrupole potential of an oblate young star, and tidal dissipation. Among other consequences of large obliquities, we find that the several orders of magnitude enhancement in tidal dissipation strength at non-zero obliquity may be able to generate the observed excess of planet pairs with period ratios just wide of 2:1 and 3:2. Though tidal origins of these excesses have previously been discussed, tidal dissipation is insufficient to reproduce the observations unless planets have non-negligible obliquities at some time in their history.