The role of planets in shaping planetary nebulae

Orsola de Marco*, Noam Soker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


In 1997 Soker laid out a framework for understanding the formation and shaping of planetary nebulae (PN). Starting from the assumption that nonspherical PN cannot be formed by single stars, he linked PN morphologies to the binary mechanisms that may have formed them, basing these connections almost entirely on observational arguments. In light of the last decade of discovery in the field of PN, we revise this framework, which, although simplistic, can still serve as a benchmark against which to test theories of PN origin and shaping. Within the framework, we revisit the role of planets in shaping PN. Soker invoked a planetary role in shaping PN because there are not enough close binaries to shape the large fraction of nonspherical PN. In this article we adopt a model whereby only ~20% of all 1-8 M stars make a PN. This reduces the need for planetary shaping. Through a propagation of percentages argument, and starting from the assumption that planets can only shape mildly elliptical PN, we conclude that ~20% of all PN were shaped via planetary and other substellar interactions, but we add that this corresponds to only ~5% of all 1-8 M stars. This may be in line with findings of planets around mainsequence stars. PN shaping by planets is made plausible by the recent discovery of planets that have survived interactions with red giant branch (RGB) stars. Finally, we conclude that of the ~80% of 1-8 M stars that do not make a PN, about one-quarter do not even ascend the AGB due to interactions with stellar and substellar companions, while three-quarters ascend the AGB but do not make a PN. Once these stars leave the AGB they evolve normally and can be confused with post-RGB, extreme horizontal branch stars. We propose tests to identify them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-411
Number of pages10
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number902
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of planets in shaping planetary nebulae'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this