Gravity Traps
Why Multiple-Star Systems Have More Planets

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

If our various specialists could step a pace back from their respective specialties once in awhile to get some commonsense perspective on what they are dealing with, perhaps science could move a lot faster. Case in point is 16 Cygni B, the first multiple-star system in which, contrary to all official predictions and expectations, a planet was recently found. This should have been expected and, as I will show in this brief and on the bases of my own prediction in such matters, multiple-star systems inevitably will have many more planets, asteroids, and other such interesting phenomena than do single-star systems.

How could the same forces which support multiple stars in a system not support other objects there as well? Think about it!

I published on this topic back in 1987 in one of my own privately published books (Toward a General Theory of Systems), years after I found I couldn't even get a letter into Science or Nature on this—they claimed not to be able to understand what I was talking about.

If you take the basic, simple relationship:
 N           (f) where N = the number of objects in orbit;
M = the mass of orbiting material;
(f) = some function and, critically,
D = the density of the primary body,
----   =  ----
 M           D

(or M + P = (f)/D, where P = variety of phenomena)

and extend it to conditions of multiple star systems, you have at least a very rough approximation in defining "density of the primary body" from the center of gravity to the outermost orbit of one of the main stars, and that "extremely low density" will, to put it plainly, mean a lot of stuff orbiting around there. That is the case with our own least-dense Saturn, no less than with Uranus and Neptune, around which bodies I predicted in 1979 (Your Limitless Inventing Machine, 3rd edition) pretty much what the Voyager fly-bys found there. Simply put:

The less dense the primary body, the more in proportion that variations in the circumferential density will produce orbital perturbations—hence, "gravity traps" in orbit. True, multiple-star systems will have enough instabilities to feature a higher rate of purge at some points—but overall (and you can count this one, as of 4/4/97, as my new prediction on this point) such multiple-star systems will feature far more, not fewer, planets and related phenomena than do single-star systems.

Think of it, if you will, as a matter of debris caught up in the libration points and in the standing-wave harmonics of the system.

Let me hear from you if you have theories about these matters.


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Win Wenger

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