The impact of tidal friction evolution on the orbital decay of ultra-short-period planets

Jaime A. Alvarado-Montes*, Mario Sucerquia, Carolina García-Carmona, Jorge I. Zuluaga, Lee Spitler, Christian Schwab

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Unveiling the fate of ultra-short-period (USP) planets may help us understand the qualitative agreement between tidal theory and the observed exoplanet distribution. Nevertheless, due to the time-varying interchange of spin–orbit angular momentum in star–planet systems, the expected amount of tidal friction is unknown and depends on the dissipative properties of stellar and planetary interiors. In this work, we couple structural changes in the star and the planet resulting from the energy released per tidal cycle and simulate the orbital evolution of USP planets and the spin-up produced on their host star. For the first time, we allow the strength of magnetic braking to vary within a model that includes photo-evaporation, drag caused by the stellar wind, stellar mass-loss, and stellar wind enhancement due to the in-falling USP planet. We apply our model to the two exoplanets with the shortest periods known to date, NGTS-10b and WASP-19b. We predict they will undergo orbital decay in time-scales that depend on the evolution of the tidal dissipation reservoir inside the star, as well as the contribution of the stellar convective envelope to the transfer of angular momentum. Contrary to previous work, which predicted mid-transit time shifts of ∼30–190 s over 10 yr, we found that such changes would be smaller than 10 s. We note this is sensitive to the assumptions about the dissipative properties of the system. Our results have important implications for the search for observational evidence of orbital decay in USP planets, using present and future observational campaigns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2247-2259
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
  • planets and satellites: gaseous planets
  • planets and satellites: physical evolution


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