Posts Tagged transits

Recent Postings from transits

KIC 9632895 - The 10th Kepler Transiting Circumbinary Planet

We present the discovery of KIC 9632895b, a 6.2 Earth-radius planet in a low-eccentricity, 240.5-day orbit about an eclipsing binary. The binary itself consists of a 0.93 and 0.194 solar mass pair of stars with an orbital period of 27.3 days. The plane of the planet’s orbit is rapidly precessing, and its inclination only becomes sufficiently aligned with the primary star in the latter portion of the Kepler data. Thus three transits are present in the latter half of the light curve, but none of the three conjunctions that occurred during the first half of the light curve produced transits. The precession period is ~103 years, and during that cycle, transits are visible only ~8% of the time. This has the important implication that for every system like KIC 9632895 that we detect, there are ~12 circumbinary systems that exist but are not currently exhibiting transits. The planet’s mass is too small to noticeably perturb the binary, consequently its mass is not measurable with these data; but our photodynamical model places a 1-sigma upper limit of 16 Earth masses. With a period 8.8 times that of the binary, the planet is well outside the dynamical instability zone. It does, however, lie within the habitable zone of the binary, and making it the third of ten Kepler circumbinary planets to do so.

Development and Application of Tools to Characterize Transiting Astrophysical Systems

Since the discovery of the first exoplanets more than 20 years ago, there has been an increasing need for photometric and spectroscopic models to characterize these systems. While imaging has been used extensively for Solar System bodies and extended objects like galaxies, the small angular extent of typical planetary systems makes it difficult or impossible to resolve them. Spatially integrated observations like measuring the total brightness or spectrum, however, can be conducted at a resonable cost. This thesis focuses on photometric models in the context of transiting systems, which exhibit a number of phenomena that can be exploited for characterization. First, we showcase the popular methods of transiting exoplanet discovery and characterization by ground based observations on the hot Jupiter HAT-P-27b. We demonstrate how transits allow us to constrain planetary mass, radius, and orbital inclination, which would not be possible based only on, for example, radial velocity measurements. Next, we perform reflection spectroscopy on HAT-P-1b, another hot Jupiter, using the binary companion of the host star as a reference to remove systematic errors from the signal. Here the transiting nature of the system allows us to look for the very faint light reflected by the planet. We also apply the idea of planetary transits to investigate the feasibility of transit observations in astrophysical systems of very different scale: stars in galactic nuclei potentially transiting the accretion disk of the supermassive black hole in the galactic center. Finally, we focus on mapping spots on the stellar surface using transits. This method has been used for a decade, and helped constrain stellar rotation or orbital geometry in a number systems. We study starspots on HAT-P-11 to learn more about stellar rotation and to investigate the size and contrast of the spots themselves.

Revisiting the transits of CoRoT-7b at a lower activity level

CoRoT-7b, the first super-Earth with measured radius discovered, has opened the new field of rocky exoplanets characterisation. To better understand this interesting system, new observations were taken with the CoRoT satellite. During this run 90 new transits were obtained in the imagette mode. These were analysed together with the previous 151 transits obtained in the discovery run and HARPS radial velocity observations to derive accurate system parameters. A difference is found in the posterior probability distribution of the transit parameters between the previous CoRoT run (LRa01) and the new run (LRa06). We propose this is due to an extra noise component in the previous CoRoT run suspected to be transit spot occultation events. These lead to the mean transit shape becoming V-shaped. We show that the extra noise component is dominant at low stellar flux levels and reject these transits in the final analysis. We obtained a planetary radius, $R_p= 1.585\pm0.064\,R_{\oplus}$, in agreement with previous estimates. Combining the planetary radius with the new mass estimates results in a planetary density of $ 1.19 \pm 0.27\, \rho_{\oplus}$ which is consistent with a rocky composition. The CoRoT-7 system remains an excellent test bed for the effects of activity in the derivation of planetary parameters in the shallow transit regime.

spotrod: a semi-analytic model for transits of spotted stars

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Kepler space mission observed a large number of planetary transits showing anomalies due to starspot eclipses, with more such observations expected in the near future by the K2 mission and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). To facilitate analysis of this phenomenon, we present spotrod, a model for planetary transits of stars with an arbitrary limb darkening law and a number of homogeneous, circular spots on their surface. A free, open source implementation written in C, ready to use in Python, is available for download. We analyze Kepler observations of the planetary host star HAT-P-11, and study the size and contrast of more than two hundred starspots. We find that the flux ratio of spots ranges at least from 0.6 to 0.9, corresponding to an effective temperature approximately 100 to 450 K lower than the stellar surface, although it is possible that some spots are darker than 0.5. The largest detected spots have a radius less than approximately 0.2 stellar radii.

Transits of Planets with Small Intervals in Circumbinary Systems

Transit times around single stars can be described well by a linear ephemeris. However, transit times in circumbinary systems are influenced both by the gravitational perturbations and the orbital phase variations of the central binary star. Adopting a coplanar analog of Kepler-16 as an example, we find that circumbinary planets can transit the same star more than once during a single planetary orbit, a phenomenon we call "tight transits". In certain geometric, the projected orbital velocity of the planet and the secondary star can approach zero and change sign, resulting in very long transits and/or 2-3 transits during a single binary orbit. Whether tight transits are possible for a particular system depends primarily on the binary mass ratio and the orbital architecture of both the binary and the planet. We derive a time-dependent criterion to judge when tight transits are possible for any circumbinary system. These results are verified with full dynamical integrations that also reveal other tight transit characteristics, i.e., the transit durations and the intervals between tight transits. For the seven currently known circumbinary systems, we estimate these critical parameters both analytically and numerically. Due to the mutual inclination between the planet and the binary, tight transits can only occur across the less massive star B in Kepler-16, -34, -35, and -47 (for both planets). The long-term average frequency of tight transits (compared to typical transits) for Kepler-16, -34, and -35 are estimated to be several percent. Using full numerical integrations, the next tight transit for each system is predicted and the soonest example appears to be Kepler-47b and -47c, which are likely to have tight transits before 2025. These unique and valuable events often deserve special observational scrutiny.

Analysis and interpretation of 15 quarters of Kepler data of the disintegrating planet KIC 12557548 b

The Kepler object KIC 12557548 shows irregular eclipsing behaviour with a constant 15.685 hr period, but strongly varying transit depth. In this paper we fit individual eclipses, in addition to fitting binned light curves, to learn more about the process underlying the eclipse depth variation. Additionally, we put forward observational constraints that any model of this planet-star system will have to match. We find two quiescent spells of ~30 orbital periods each where the transit depth is <0.1%, followed by relatively deep transits. Additionally, we find periods of on-off behaviour where >0.5% deep transits are followed by apparently no transit at all. Apart from these isolated events we find neither significant correlation between consecutive transit depths nor a correlation between transit depth and stellar intensity. We find a three-sigma upper limit for the secondary eclipse of 4.9*10^-5, consistent with a planet candidate with a radius of less than 4600 km. Using the short cadence data we find that a 1-D exponential dust tail model is insufficient to explain the data. We improved our model to a 2-D, two-component dust model with an opaque core and an exponential tail. Using this model we fit individual eclipses observed in short cadence mode. We find an improved fit of the data, quantifying earlier suggestions by Budaj (2013) of the necessity of at least two components. We find that deep transits have most absorption in the tail, and not in a disk-shaped, opaque coma, but the transit depth and the total absorption show no correlation with the tail length.

TTVs analysis of Southern Stars: the case of WASP-4

We present 6 new transits of the system WASP-4. Together with 28 light curves published in the literature, we perform an homogeneous study of its parameters and search for variations in the transit’s central times. The final values agree with those previously reported, except for a slightly lower inclination. We find no significant long-term variations in $i$ or $R_{P}/R_{\star}$. The $O-C$ mid-transit times do not show signs of TTVs greater than 54 seconds.

The optical transmission spectrum of the hot Jupiter HAT-P-32b: clouds explain the absence of broad spectral features?

We report Gemini-North GMOS observations of the inflated hot Jupiter HAT-P-32b during two primary transits. We simultaneously observed two comparison stars and used differential spectro-photometry to produce multi-wavelength light curves. ‘White’ light curves and 29 ‘spectral’ light curves were extracted for each transit and analysed to refine the system parameters and produce transmission spectra from 520-930nm in ~14nm bins. The light curves contain time-varying white noise as well as time-correlated noise, and we used a Gaussian process model to fit this complex noise model. Common mode corrections derived from the white light curve fits were applied to the spectral light curves which significantly improved our precision, reaching typical uncertainties in the transit depth of ~2×10^-4, corresponding to about half a pressure scale height. The low resolution transmission spectra are consistent with a featureless model, and we can confidently rule out broad features larger than about one scale height. The absence of Na/K wings or prominent TiO/VO features is most easily explained by grey absorption from clouds in the upper atmosphere, masking the spectral features. However, we cannot confidently rule out clear atmosphere models with low abundances (~10^-3 solar) of TiO, VO or even metal hydrides masking the Na and K wings. A smaller scale height or ionisation could also contribute to muted spectral features, but alone are unable to to account for the absence of features reported here.

Constraints on a second planet in the WASP-3 system

There have been previous hints that the transiting planet WASP-3 b is accompanied by a second planet in a nearby orbit, based on small deviations from strict periodicity of the observed transits. Here we present 17 precise radial velocity measurements and 32 transit light curves that were acquired between 2009 and 2011. These data were used to refine the parameters of the host star and transiting planet. This has resulted in reduced uncertainties for the radii and masses of the star and planet. The radial-velocity data and the transit times show no evidence for an additional planet in the system. Therefore, we have determined the upper limit on the mass of any hypothetical second planet, as a function of its orbital period.

Hot Big Planets Kepler Survey: Measuring the Repopulation Rate of the Shortest-Period Planets

By surveying new fields for the shortest-period "big" planets, the Kepler spacecraft could provide the statistics to more clearly measure the occurrence distributions of giant and medium planets. This would allow separate determinations for giant and medium planets of the relationship between the inward rate of tidal migration of planets and the strength of the stellar tidal dissipation (as expressed by the tidal quality factor Q). We propose a "Hot Big Planets Survey" to find new big planets to better determine the planet occurrence distribution at the shortest period. We call planets that Kepler will be able to find as "big", for the purpose of comparing the distribution of giant and medium planets (above and below 8 earth radii). The distribution of planets from one field has been interpreted to show that the shortest period giant planets are at the end of an ongoing flow of high eccentricity migration, likely from scattering from further out. The numbers of planets at these short periods is still small, leaving uncertainty over the result that the distribution shows the expected power index for inward tidal migration. The current statistics make it hard to say whether the presence of more giant planets at the shortest periods despite there being more medium planets at most periods indicates a greater migration of giant than medium planets. We propose a repurposed Kepler mission to make enough 45-day observations to survey 10 times as many stars as in the survey of the original field, to survey for planets with periods of up to fifteen days with at least three transits. The current statistics make it hard to say whether the presence of more giant planets at the shortest periods despite there being more medium planets at most periods indicates a greater migration of giant than medium planets.

Exoplanet Transit Variability: Bow Shocks and Winds Around HD 189733b

By analogy with the solar system, it is believed that stellar winds will form bow shocks around exoplanets. For hot Jupiters the bow shock will not form directly between the planet and the star, causing an asymmetric distribution of mass around the exoplanet and hence an asymmetric transit. As the planet orbits thorough varying wind conditions, the strength and geometry of its bow shock will change, thus producing transits of varying shape. We model this process using magnetic maps of HD 189733 taken one year apart, coupled with a 3D stellar wind model, to determine the local stellar wind conditions throughout the orbital path of the planet. We predict the time-varying geometry and density of the bow shock that forms around the magnetosphere of the planet and simulate transit light curves. Depending on the nature of the stellar magnetic field, and hence its wind, we find that both the transit duration and ingress time can vary when compared to optical light curves. We conclude that consecutive near-UV transit light curves may vary significantly and can therefore provide an insight into the structure and evolution of the stellar wind.

Looking for Very Short-Period Planets with Re-Purposed Kepler

A re-purposed Kepler mission could continue the search for nearly Earth-sized planets in very short-period (< 1 day) orbits. Recent surveys of the Kepler data already available have revealed at least a dozen such planetary candidates, and a more complete and focused survey is likely to reveal more. Given the planets’ short orbital periods, building the requisite signal-to-noise to detect the candidates by stacking multiple transits requires a much shorter observational baseline than for longer-period planets, and the transits are likely more robust against the much larger instrumental variations anticipated for the modified Kepler pointing capabilities. Searching for these unusual planets will also leverage the Kepler mission’s already considerable expertise in planetary transit detection and analysis. These candidates may represent an entirely new class of planet. They may also provide unprecedented insights into planet formation and evolution and sensitive probes for planet-star interactions and the stellar wind. Whatever their origins and natures, such planets would be particularly amenable to discovery by the planned TESS mission, and a preliminary survey by Kepler could pave the way for such TESS discoveries.

Qatar-1: indications for possible transit timing variations

Variations in the timing of transiting exoplanets provide a powerful tool detecting additional planets in the system. Thus, the aim of this paper is to discuss the plausibility of transit timing variations on the Qatar-1 system by means of primary transit light curves analysis. Furthermore, we provide an interpretation of the timing variation. We observed Qatar-1 between March 2011 and October 2012 using the 1.2 m OLT telescope in Germany and the 0.6 m PTST telescope in Spain. We present 26 primary transits of the hot Jupiter Qatar-1b. In total, our light curves cover a baseline of 18 months. We report on indications for possible long-term transit timing variations (TTVs). Assuming that these TTVs are true, we present two different scenarios that could explain them. Our reported $\sim$ 190 days TTV signal can be reproduced by either a weak perturber in resonance with Qatar-1b, or by a massive body in the brown dwarf regime. More observations and radial velocity monitoring are required to better constrain the perturber’s characteristics. We also refine the ephemeris of Qatar-1b, which we find to be \mbox{$T_0 = 2456157.42204 \pm 0.0001$ \bjdtdb} and \mbox{$P = 1.4200246 \pm 0.0000007$ days}, and improve the system orbital parameters.

SOPHIE velocimetry of Kepler transit candidates IX. KOI-415 b: a long-period, eccentric transiting brown dwarf to an evolved Sun

We report the discovery of a long-period brown-dwarf transiting companion of the solar-type star KOI-415. The transits were detected by the Kepler space telescope. We conducted Doppler measurements using the SOPHIE spectrograph at the Observatoire de Haute-Provence. The photometric and spectroscopic signals allow us to characterize a 62.14+-2.69 Mjup, brown-dwarf companion of an evolved 0.94+-0.06 Msun star in a highly eccentric orbit of P = 166.78805+-0.00022 days and e = 0.698+-0.002. The radius of KOI-415 b is 0.79 (-0.07,+0.12) Rjup, a value that is compatible with theoretical predictions for a 10 Gyr, low-metallicity and non-irradiated object.

Narrow-K-Band Observations of the GJ 1214 System

GJ 1214 is a nearby M dwarf star that hosts a transiting super-Earth-size planet, making this system an excellent target for atmospheric studies. Most studies find that the transmission spectrum of GJ 1214b is flat, which favors either a high mean molecular weight or cloudy/hazy hydrogen (H) rich atmosphere model. Photometry at short wavelengths (< 0.7 micron) and in the K-band can discriminate the most between these different atmosphere models for GJ 1214b, but current observations do not have sufficiently high precision. We present photometry of seven transits of GJ 1214b through a narrow K-band (2.141 micron) filter with the Wide Field Camera on the 3.8 m United Kingdom Infrared Telescope. Our photometric precision is typically 1.7×10^-3 (for a single transit), comparable with other ground-based observations of GJ 1214b. We measure a planet-star radius ratio of 0.1158+/-0.0013, which, along with other studies, also supports a flat transmission spectrum for GJ 1214b. Since this does not exclude a scenario where GJ 1214b has a H-rich envelope with heavy elements that are sequestered below a cloud/haze layer, we compare K-band observations with models of H_2 collision-induced absorption in an atmosphere for a range of temperatures. While we find no evidence for deviation from a flat spectrum (slope s = 0.0016+/-0.0038), an H_2 dominated upper atmosphere (< 60 mbar) cannot be excluded. More precise observations at < 0.7 micron and in the K-band as well as a uniform analysis of all published data would be useful for establishing more robust limits on atmosphere models for GJ 1214b.

Measurement of Spin-Orbit Misalignment and Nodal Precession for the Planet around Pre-Main-Sequence Star PTFO 8-8695 From Gravity Darkening

PTFO 8-8695b represents the first transiting exoplanet candidate orbiting a pre-main-sequence star. We find that the unusual lightcurve shapes of PTFO 8-8695 can be explained by transits of a planet across an oblate, gravity-darkened stellar disk. We simultaneously and self-consistently fit two separate lightcurves observed in 2009 December and 2010 December. Our two self-consistent fits yield M_p = 3.0 M_Jup and M_p = 3.6 M_Jup for assumed stellar masses of M_* = 0.34 M_Sun and M_* = 0.44 M_Sun respectively. The two fits have precession periods of 293 days and 581 days. These mass determinations (consistent with previous upper limits) along with the strength of the gravity-darkened precessing model together validate PTFO 8-8695b as just the second Hot Jupiter known to orbit an M-dwarf. Our fits show a high degree of spin-orbit misalignment in the PTFO 8-8695 system: 69 +/- 2 or 73.1 +/- 0.5 degrees, in the two cases. The large misalignment is consistent with the hypothesis that planets become Hot Jupiters with random orbital plane alignments early in a system’s lifetime. We predict that as a result of the highly misaligned, precessing system, the transits should disappear for months at a time over the course of the system’s precession period. The precessing, gravity-darkened model also predicts other observable effects: changing orbit inclination that could be detected by radial velocity observations, changing stellar inclination that would manifest as varying v sin i, changing projected spin-orbit alignment that could be seen by the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect, changing transit shapes over the course of the precession, and differing lightcurves as a function of wavelength. Our measured planet radii of 1.64 R_Jup and 1.68 R_Jup in each case are consistent with a young, hydrogen-dominated planet that results from a hot-start formation mechanism.

Investigation of systematic effects in Kepler data: Seasonal variations in the light curve of HAT-P-7b

With years of Kepler data currently available, it can now be attempted to measure variations in planetary transit depths over time. To do so, it is of primary importance to understand which systematic effects may affect the measurement of transits. We aim to measure the stability of Kepler measurements over years of observations. We present a study of the depth of about 500 transit events of the Hot Jupiter HAT-P-7b, using 14 quarters (Q0-Q13) of data from the Kepler Satellite. We find a systematic variation in the depth of the primary transit, related to quarters of data and recurring yearly. These seasonal variations are about 1%. Within seasons, we find no evidence for trends. We speculate that the cause of the seasonal variations could be unknown field crowding or instrumental artifacts. Our results show that care must be taken when combining transits throughout different quarters of Kepler data. Measuring the relative planetary radius of HAT-P-7b without taking these systematic effects into account leads to unrealistically low error estimates. This effect could be present in all Kepler targets. If so, relative radius measurements of all Hot Jupiters to a precision much better than 1% are unrealistic.

The same frequency of planets inside and outside open clusters of stars

Most stars and their planets form in open clusters. Over 95 per cent of such clusters have stellar densities too low (less than a hundred stars per cubic parsec) to withstand internal and external dynamical stresses and fall apart within a few hundred million years. Older open clusters have survived by virtue of being richer and denser in stars (1,000 to 10,000 per cubic parsec) when they formed. Such clusters represent a stellar environment very different from the birthplace of the Sun and other planet-hosting field stars. So far more than 800 planets have been found around Sun-like stars in the field. The field planets are usually the size of Neptune or smaller. In contrast, only four planets have been found orbiting stars in open clusters, all with masses similar to or greater than that of Jupiter. Here we report observations of the transits of two Sun-like stars by planets smaller than Neptune in the billion-year-old open cluster NGC6811. This demonstrates that small planets can form and survive in a dense cluster environment, and implies that the frequency and properties of planets in open clusters are consistent with those of planets around field stars in the Galaxy.

A highly inclined orbit for the 110-day period M-dwarf companion KOI-368.01 [Replacement]

We report the detection of asymmetry in the transit light curves of the 110-day period companion to KOI-368, a rapidly rotating A-dwarf. The significant distortion in the transit light curve is attributed to spin-orbit misalignment between the transiting companion and the gravity darkened host star. Our analysis was based on 11 Long Cadence and 2 Short Cadence transits of KOI-368.01 from the Kepler mission, as well as stellar parameters determined from our follow-up spectroscopic observation. We measured the true obliquity between the orbit normal and the stellar rotation axis to be 68 +9/-10 deg. We also find a secondary eclipse event with depth 31+/-3 ppm at phase 0.59, from which the temperature of the companion is constrained to 3040 +130/-150 K, indicating that KOI-368.01 is a late M-dwarf. The eccentricity is also calculated from the eclipse to be 0.1418+/-0.0004. The long period, high obliquity, and low eccentricity of KOI-368.01 allow us to limit a number of proposed theories for the misalignment of binary systems.

A highly inclined orbit for the 110-day period planet candidate KOI-368.01

We report the detection of asymmetry in the transit light curves of the 110-day period planet candidate KOI-368.01, orbiting a rapidly rotating A-dwarf. The significant distortion in the transit light curve is attributed to spin-orbit misalignment between the transiting companion and the gravity darkened host star. Our analysis was based on 11 Long Cadence and 2 Short Cadence transits of KOI-368.01 from the Kepler mission, as well as stellar parameters determined from our follow-up spectroscopic observation. We measure the true obliquity between the orbit normal and the stellar rotation axis to be 64 +11/-9 degrees. The orbital eccentricity is also constrained by the transit duration to be e=0.07 +0.18/-0.07. The long period, high obliquity, and potentially low eccentricity of KOI-368.01 makes it unique amongst systems with spin-orbit measurements, and appears to be incompatible with Kozai migration mechanisms involving wide stellar mass binaries.

A highly inclined orbit for the 110-day period M-dwarf companion KOI-368.01 [Replacement]

We report the detection of asymmetry in the transit light curves of the 110-day period companion to KOI-368, a rapidly rotating A-dwarf. The significant distortion in the transit light curve is attributed to spin-orbit misalignment between the transiting companion and the gravity darkened host star. Our analysis was based on 11 Long Cadence and 2 Short Cadence transits of KOI-368.01 from the Kepler mission, as well as stellar parameters determined from our follow-up spectroscopic observation. We measured the true obliquity between the orbit normal and the stellar rotation axis to be 69 +9/-10 deg. We also find a secondary eclipse event with depth 29 +/- 3 ppm at phase 0.59, from which the temperature of the companion is constrained to 3060 +/- 50 K, indicating that KOI-368.01 is a late M-dwarf. The eccentricity is also calculated from the eclipse to be 0.1429 +/- 0.0007. The long period, high obliquity, and low eccentricity of KOI-368.01 allow us to limit a number of proposed theories for the misalignment of binary systems.

High angular resolution imaging and infrared spectroscopy of CoRoT candidates [Replacement]

Studies of transiting extrasolar planets are of key importance for understanding the nature of planets outside our solar system because their masses, diameters, and bulk densities can be measured. An important part of transit-search programmes is the removal of false-positives. The critical question is how many of the candidates that passed all previous tests are false positives. For our study we selected 25 CoRoT candidates that have already been screened against false-positives using detailed analysis of the light curves and seeing-limited imaging, which has transits that are between 0.7 and 0.05% deep. We observed 20 candidates with the adaptive optics imager NaCo and 18 with the high-resolution infrared spectrograph CRIRES. We found previously unknown stars within 2 arcsec of the targets in seven of the candidates. All of these are too faint and too close to the targets to have been previously detected with seeing-limited telescopes in the optical. Our study thus leads to the surprising results that if we remove all candidates excluded by the sophisticated analysis of the light-curve, as well as carrying out deep imaging with seeing-limited telescopes, still 28-35% of the remaining candidates are found to possess companions that are bright enough to be false-positives. Given that the companion-candidates cluster around the targets and that the J-K colours are consistent with physical companions, we conclude that the companion-candidates are more likely to be physical companions rather than unrelated field stars.

High angular resolution imaging and infrared spectroscopy of CoRoT candidates

Studies of transiting extrasolar planets are of key importance for understanding the nature of planets outside our solar system because their masses, diameters, and bulk densities can be measured. An important part of transit-search programmes is the removal of false-positives. The critical question is how many of the candidates that passed all previous tests are false positives. For our study we selected 25 CoRoT candidates that have already been screened against false-positives using detailed analysis of the light curves and seeing-limited imaging, which has transits that are between 0.7 and 0.05% deep. We observed 20 candidates with the adaptive optics imager NaCo and 18 with the high-resolution infrared spectrograph CRIRES. We found previously unknown stars within 2 arcsec of the targets in seven of the candidates. All of these are too faint and too close to the targets to have been previously detected with seeing-limited telescopes in the optical. Our study thus leads to the surprising results that if we remove all candidates excluded by the sophisticated analysis of the light-curve, as well as carrying out deep imaging with seeing-limited telescopes, still 28-35% of the remaining candidates are found to possess companions that are bright enough to be false-positives. Given that the companion-candidates cluster around the targets and that the J-K colours are consistent with physical companions, we conclude that the companion-candidates are more likely to be physical companions rather than unrelated field stars.

High angular resolution imaging and infrared spectroscopy of CoRoT candidates [Replacement]

Studies of transiting extrasolar planets are of key importance for understanding the nature of planets outside our solar system because their masses, diameters, and bulk densities can be measured. An important part of transit-search programmes is the removal of false-positives. The critical question is how many of the candidates that passed all previous tests are false positives. For our study we selected 25 CoRoT candidates that have already been screened against false-positives using detailed analysis of the light curves and seeing-limited imaging, which has transits that are between 0.7 and 0.05% deep. We observed 20 candidates with the adaptive optics imager NaCo and 18 with the high-resolution infrared spectrograph CRIRES. We found previously unknown stars within 2 arcsec of the targets in seven of the candidates. All of these are too faint and too close to the targets to have been previously detected with seeing-limited telescopes in the optical. Our study thus leads to the surprising results that if we remove all candidates excluded by the sophisticated analysis of the light-curve, as well as carrying out deep imaging with seeing-limited telescopes, still 28-35% of the remaining candidates are found to possess companions that are bright enough to be false-positives. Given that the companion-candidates cluster around the targets and that the J-K colours are consistent with physical companions, we conclude that the companion-candidates are more likely to be physical companions rather than unrelated field stars.

Placing Limits On The Transit Timing Variations Of Circumbinary Exoplanets

We present an efficient analytical method to predict the maximum transit timing variations of a circumbinary exoplanet, given some basic parameters of the host binary. We derive an analytical model giving limits on the potential location of transits for coplanar planets orbiting eclipsing binaries, then test it against numerical N-body simulations of a distribution of binaries and planets. We also show the application of the analytic model to Kepler-16b, -34b and -35b. The resulting method is fast, efficient and is accurate to approximately 1% in predicting limits on possible times of transits over a three-year observing campaign. The model can easily be used to, for example, place constraints on transit timing while performing circumbinary planet searches on large datasets. It is adaptable to use in situations where some or many of the planet and binary parameters are unknown.

Physical properties, transmission and emission spectra of the WASP-19 planetary system from multi-colour photometry

We present new ground-based, multi-colour, broad-band photometric measurements of the physical parameters, transmission and emission spectra of the transiting extrasolar planet WASP-19b. The measurements are based on observations of 8 transits and four occultations using the 1.5m Danish Telescope, 14 transits at the PEST observatory, and 1 transit observed simultaneously through four optical and three near-infrared filters, using the GROND instrument on the ESO 2.2m telescope. We use these new data to measure refined physical parameters for the system. We find the planet to be more bloated and the system to be twice as old as initially thought. We also used published and archived datasets to study the transit timings, which do not depart from a linear ephemeris. We detected an anomaly in the GROND transit light curve which is compatible with a spot on the photosphere of the parent star. The starspot position, size, spot contrast and temperature were established. Using our new and published measurements, we assembled the planet’s transmission spectrum over the 370-2350 nm wavelength range and its emission spectrum over the 750-8000 nm range. By comparing these data to theoretical models we investigated the theoretically-predicted variation of the apparent radius of WASP-19b as a function of wavelength and studied the composition and thermal structure of its atmosphere. We conclude that: there is no evidence for strong optical absorbers at low pressure, supporting the common idea that the planet’s atmosphere lacks a dayside inversion; the temperature of the planet is not homogenized, because the high warming of its dayside causes the planet to be more efficient in re-radiating than redistributing energy to the night side; the planet seems to be outside of any current classification scheme.

High-precision photometry by telescope defocussing. V. WASP-15 and WASP-16

We present new photometric observations of WASP-15 and WASP-16, two transiting extrasolar planetary systems with measured orbital obliquities but without photometric follow-up since their discovery papers. Our new data for WASP-15 comprise observations of one transit simultaneously in four optical passbands using GROND on the MPG/ESO 2.2m telescope, plus coverage of half a transit from DFOSC on the Danish 1.54m telescope, both at ESO La Silla. For WASP-16 we present observations of four complete transits, all from the Danish telescope. We use these new data to refine the measured physical properties and orbital ephemerides of the two systems. Whilst our results are close to the originally-determined values for WASP-15, we find that the star and planet in the WASP-16 system are both larger and less massive than previously thought.

The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK): III. The First Search for an Exomoon around a Habitable-Zone Planet

Kepler-22b is the first transiting planet to have been detected in the habitable-zone of its host star. At 2.4 Earth radii, Kepler-22b is too large to be considered an Earth-analog, but should the planet host a moon large enough to maintain an atmosphere, then the Kepler-22 system may yet possess a telluric world. Aside from being within the habitable-zone, the target is attractive due to the availability of previously measured precise radial velocities and low intrinsic photometric noise, which has also enabled asteroseismology studies of the star. For these reasons, Kepler-22b was selected as a target-of-opportunity by the ‘Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler’ (HEK) project. In this work, we conduct a photodynamical search for an exomoon around Kepler-22b leveraging the transits, radial velocities and asteroseismology plus several new tools developed by the HEK project to improve exomoon searches. We find no evidence for an exomoon around the planet and exclude moons of mass >0.5 Earth masses to 95% confidence. By signal injection and blind retrieval, we demonstrate that Earth-like moons are easily detected for this planet even when the time-correlated noise of the data set is taken into account. We provide updated parameters for the planet Kepler-22b including a revised mass of <53 Earth masses to 95% confidence and an eccentricity of 0.13(-0.13)(+0.36) by exploiting Single-body Asterodensity Profiling (SAP). Finally, we show that Kepler-22b has a >95% probability of being within the empirical habitable-zone but a <5% probability of being within the conservative habitable-zone.

The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK): III. The First Search for an Exomoon around a Habitable-Zone Planet [Replacement]

Kepler-22b is the first transiting planet to have been detected in the habitable-zone of its host star. At 2.4 Earth radii, Kepler-22b is too large to be considered an Earth-analog, but should the planet host a moon large enough to maintain an atmosphere, then the Kepler-22 system may yet possess a telluric world. Aside from being within the habitable-zone, the target is attractive due to the availability of previously measured precise radial velocities and low intrinsic photometric noise, which has also enabled asteroseismology studies of the star. For these reasons, Kepler-22b was selected as a target-of-opportunity by the ‘Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler’ (HEK) project. In this work, we conduct a photodynamical search for an exomoon around Kepler-22b leveraging the transits, radial velocities and asteroseismology plus several new tools developed by the HEK project to improve exomoon searches. We find no evidence for an exomoon around the planet and exclude moons of mass >0.5 Earth masses to 95% confidence. By signal injection and blind retrieval, we demonstrate that an Earth-like moon is easily detected for this planet even when the time-correlated noise of the data set is taken into account. We provide updated parameters for the planet Kepler-22b including a revised mass of <53 Earth masses to 95% confidence and an eccentricity of 0.13(-0.13)(+0.36) by exploiting Single-body Asterodensity Profiling (SAP). Finally, we show that Kepler-22b has a >95% probability of being within the empirical habitable-zone but a <5% probability of being within the conservative habitable-zone.

TraMoS project III: Improved physical parameters, timing analysis, and star-spot modelling of the WASP-4b exoplanet system from 38 transit observations

We report twelve new transit observations of the exoplanet WASP-4b from the Transit Monitoring in the South Project (TraMoS) project. These transits are combined with all previously published transit data for this planet to provide an improved radius measurement of Rp = 1.395 +- 0.022 Rjup and improved transit ephemerides. In a new homogeneous analysis in search for Transit Timing Variations (TTVs) we find no evidence of those with RMS amplitudes larger than 20 seconds over a 4-year time span. This lack of TTVs rules out the presence of additional planets in the system with masses larger than about 2.5 M_earth, 2.0 M_earth, and 1.0 M_earth around the 1:2, 5:3 and 2:1 orbital resonances. Our search for the variation of other parameters, such as orbital inclination and transit depth also yields negative results over the total time span of the transit observations. Finally we perform a simple study of stellar spots configurations of the system and conclude that the star rotational period is about 34 days.

A warm, likely volatile-rich super-Earth: HD 97658b transits, but not quite when expected

Through photometric monitoring of the extended transit window of HD 97658b with the MOST space telescope, we have found that this exoplanet transits with an ephemeris consistent with that predicted from radial velocity measurements. The mid-transit times are 6$\sigma$ earlier than those of the unverified transit-like signals reported in 2011, and we find no connection between the two sets of events. The transit depth indicates a 2.34$^{+0.18}_{-0.15}$ $R_\earth$ super-Earth. When combined with the radial velocity determined mass of 7.86 $\pm 0.73$ $M_\earth$, our radius measure allows us to derive a planet density of 3.44$^{+0.91}_{-0.82}$ g cm$^{-3}$. Models suggest that a planet with our measured density has a rocky core that is enveloped in an atmosphere composed of lighter elements. The star of the HD 97658 system is the second brightest known to host a transiting super-Earth, facilitating folllow-up studies of this not easily daunted, warm and likely volatile-rich exoplanet.

Multi-Color Transit Photometry of GJ 1214b through BJHKs-Bands and a Long-Term Monitoring of the Stellar Variability of GJ 1214 [Replacement]

We present 5 new transit light curves of GJ 1214b taken in BJHKs-bands. Two transits were observed in B-band using the Suprime-Cam and the FOCAS instruments onboard the Subaru 8.2m telescope, and one transit was done in JHKs-bands simultaneously with the SIRIUS camera on the IRSF 1.4m telescope. MCMC analyses show that the planet-to-star radius ratios are, Rp/Rs = 0.11651 \pm 0.00065 (B-band, Subaru/Suprime-Cam), Rp/Rs = 0.11601 \pm 0.00117 (B-band, Subaru/FOCAS), Rp/Rs = 0.11654 \pm 0.00080 (J-band, IRSF/SIRIUS), Rp/Rs = 0.11550 ^{+0.00142}_{-0.00153} (H-band, IRSF/SIRIUS), and Rp/Rs = 0.11547 \pm 0.00127 (Ks-band, IRSF/SIRIUS). The Subaru Suprime-Cam transit photometry shows a possible spot-crossing feature. Comparisons of the new transit depths and those from previous studies with the theoretical models by Howe & Burrows (2012) suggest that the high molecular weight atmosphere (e.g., 1% H$_2$O + 99% N$_2$) models are most likely, however, the low molecular weight (hydrogen dominated) atmospheres with extensive clouds are still not excluded. We also report a long-term monitoring of the stellar brightness variability of GJ 1214 observed with the MITSuME 50cm telescope in g’-, Rc-, and Ic-bands simultaneously. The monitoring was conducted for 32 nights spanning 78 nights in 2012, and we find a periodic brightness variation with a period of Ps = 44.3 \pm 1.2 days and semi-amplitudes of 2.1% \pm 0.4% in g’-band, 0.56% \pm 0.08% in Rc-band, and 0.32% \pm 0.04% in Ic-band.

Multi-Color Transit Photometry of GJ 1214b through BJHKs-Bands and a Long-Term Monitoring of the Stellar Variability of GJ 1214

We present 5 new transit light curves of GJ 1214b taken in BJHKs-bands. Two transits were observed in B-band using the Suprime-Cam and the FOCAS instruments onboard the Subaru 8.2m telescope, and one transit was done in JHKs-bands simultaneously with the SIRIUS camera on the IRSF 1.4m telescope. MCMC analyses show that the planet-to-star radius ratios are, Rp/Rs = 0.11651 \pm 0.00065 (B-band, Subaru/Suprime-Cam), Rp/Rs = 0.11601 \pm 0.00117 (B-band, Subaru/FOCAS), Rp/Rs = 0.11654 \pm 0.00080 (J-band, IRSF/SIRIUS), Rp/Rs = 0.11550 ^{+0.00142}_{-0.00153} (H-band, IRSF/SIRIUS), and Rp/Rs = 0.11547 \pm 0.00127 (Ks-band, IRSF/SIRIUS). The Subaru Suprime-Cam transit photometry shows a possible spot-crossing feature. Provided that this is truly a spot-crossing and if the feature is removed, the radius ratio rises to Rp/Rs = 0.11882 \pm 0.00070. Comparisons of the new transit depths and those from previous studies with the theoretical models by Howe & Burrows (2012) suggest that the high molecular weight atmosphere (e.g., 1% H$_2$O + 99% N$_2$) models are most likely, however, the low molecular weight (hydrogen dominated) atmospheres with extensive clouds are still not excluded. We also report a long-term monitoring of the stellar brightness variability of GJ 1214 observed with the MITSuME 50cm telescope in g’-, Rc-, and Ic-bands simultaneously. The monitoring was conducted for 32 nights spanning 78 nights in 2012, and we find a periodic brightness variation with a period of Ps = 44.3 \pm 1.2 days and semi-amplitudes of 2.1% \pm 0.4% in g’-band, 0.56% \pm 0.08% in Rc-band, and 0.32% \pm 0.04% in Ic-band.

Transits and occultations of an Earth-sized planet in an 8.5-hour orbit

We report the discovery of an Earth-sized planet ($1.1\pm 0.2 R_\oplus$) in an 8.5-hour orbit around a late G-type star (KIC 8435766). The object was identified in a search for short-period planets in the Kepler database and confirmed to be a transiting planet (as opposed to an eclipsing stellar system) through the absence of ellipsoidal light variations or radial-velocity variations. The unusually short orbital period and the relative brightness of the host star ($m_{\rm Kep}$ = 11.5) enable robust detections of the changing illumination of the visible hemisphere of the planet, as well as the occultations of the planet by the star. We interpret these signals as representing a combination of reflected and reprocessed light, with the highest planet dayside temperatures in the range of 2300 K to 3100 K, and corresponding albedos of 0.6 to 0.2. Follow-up spectroscopy combined with shorter-cadence Kepler data will further pin down the system parameters and may even yield the mass of the planet.

Transits and Occultations of an Earth-Sized Planet in an 8.5-Hour Orbit [Replacement]

We report the discovery of an Earth-sized planet ($1.16\pm 0.19 R_\oplus$) in an 8.5-hour orbit around a late G-type star (KIC 8435766, Kepler-78). The object was identified in a search for short-period planets in the {\it Kepler} database and confirmed to be a transiting planet (as opposed to an eclipsing stellar system) through the absence of ellipsoidal light variations or substantial radial-velocity variations. The unusually short orbital period and the relative brightness of the host star ($m_{\rm Kep}$ = 11.5) enable robust detections of the changing illumination of the visible hemisphere of the planet, as well as the occultations of the planet by the star. We interpret these signals as representing a combination of reflected and reprocessed light, with the highest planet dayside temperature in the range of 2300 K to 3100 K. Follow-up spectroscopy combined with finer sampling photometric observations will further pin down the system parameters and may even yield the mass of the planet.

APOSTLE: Longterm Transit Monitoring and Stability Analysis of XO-2b

The Apache Point Survey of Transit Lightcurves of Exoplanets (APOSTLE) observed 10 transits of XO-2b over a period of three years. We present measurements which confirm previous estimates of system parameters like the normalized semi-major axis (a/R_{*}), stellar density (\rho_{*}), impact parameter (b) and orbital inclination (i_{orb}). Our errors on system parameters like a/R_{*} and \rho_{*} have improved by ~40% compared to previous best ground-based measurements. Our study of the transit times show no evidence for transit timing variations and we are able to rule out co-planar companions with masses \ge 0.20 \mearth\ in low order mean motion resonance with XO-2b. We also explored the stability of the XO-2 system given various orbital configurations of a hypothetical planet near the 2:1 mean motion resonance. We find that a wide range of orbits (including Earth-mass perturbers) are both dynamically stable and produce observable TTVs. We find that up to 51% of our stable simulations show TTVs that are smaller than the typical transit timing errors (~20 sec) measured for XO-2b, and hence remain undetectable.

KOI-142, the King of Transit Variations, is a Pair of Planets near the 2:1 Resonance

The Transit Timing Variations (TTVs) can be used as a diagnostic of gravitational interactions between planets in a multi-planet system. Many Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) exhibit significant TTVs, but KOI-142.01 stands out among them with an unrivaled, 12-hour TTV amplitude. Here we report a thorough analysis of KOI-142.01′s transits. We discover periodic Transit Duration Variations (TDVs) of KOI-142.01 that are nearly in phase with the observed TTVs. We show that KOI-142.01′s TTVs and TDVs uniquely detect a non-transiting companion with a mass 0.7 that of Jupiter (KOI-142c). KOI-142.01′s mass inferred from the transit variations is consistent with the measured transit depth, suggesting a Neptune class planet (KOI-142b). The orbital period ratio P_c/P_b=2.03 indicates that the two planets are just wide of the 2:1 resonance. The present dynamics of this system, characterized here in detail, can be used to test various formation theories that have been proposed to explain the near-resonant pairs of exoplanets.

LSST's DC Bias Against Planets and Galactic-Plane Science

An LSST-like survey of the Galactic plane (deep images every 3-4 days) could probe the Galactic distribution of planets by two distinct methods: gravitational microlensing of planets beyond the snow line and transits by planets very close to their hosts. The survey would identify over 250 disk-lens/disk-source microlensing events per year that peak at r<19, including 10% reaching the high magnification A>100 that makes them especially sensitive to planets. Intensive followup of these events would be required to find planets, similar to what is done presently for Galactic bulge microlensing. The same data would enable a wealth of other science, including detection of isolated black holes, systematic study of brown-dwarf binaries, a pre-explosion lightcurve of the next Galactic supernova, pre-explosion lightcurves of stellar mergers, early nova lightcurves, proper motions of many more stars than can be reached by GAIA, and probably much more. As usual, the most exciting discoveries from probing the huge parameter space encompassed by Galactic-plane stellar populations might well be serendipitous. Unfortunately, the LSST collaboration plans to exclude the first and fourth quadrants of the Galactic plane from their "synoptic" observations because the DC image that resulted from repeated observations would be limited by crowding. I demonstrate that the majority of this science can be recovered by employing well-developed image subtraction analysis methods, and that the cost to other (high Galactic latitude) science would be negligible.

Photospheric activity, rotation and magnetic interaction in LHS 6343 A

Context. The Kepler mission has recently discovered a brown dwarf companion transiting one member of the M4V+M5V visual binary system LHS 6343 AB with an orbital period of 12.71 days. Aims. The particular interest of this transiting system lies in the synchronicity between the transits of the brown dwarf C component and the main modulation observed in the light curve, which is assumed to be caused by rotating starspots on the A component. We model the activity of this star by deriving maps of the active regions that allow us to study stellar rotation and the possible interaction with the brown dwarf companion. Methods. An average transit profile was derived, and the photometric perturbations due to spots occulted during transits are removed to derive more precise transit parameters. We applied a maximum entropy spot model to fit the out-of-transit optical modulation as observed by Kepler during an uninterrupted interval of 500 days. It assumes that stellar active regions consist of cool spots and bright faculae whose visibility is modulated by stellar rotation. Results. Thanks to the extended photometric time series, we refine the determination of the transit parameters and find evidence of spots that are occulted by the brown dwarf during its transits. The modelling of the out-of-transit light curve of LHS 6343 A reveals several starspots rotating with a slightly longer period than the orbital period of the brown dwarf, i.e., 13.13 +- 0.02 days. No signature attributable to differential rotation is observed. We find evidence of a persistent active longitude on the M dwarf preceding the sub- companion point by 100 deg and lasting for at least 500 days. This can be relevant for understanding how magnetic interaction works in low-mass binary and star-planet systems.

Ground-Based Transit Spectroscopy of the Hot-Jupiter WASP-19b in the Near-Infrared [Replacement]

We present ground-based measurements of the transmission and emission spectra of the hot-Jupiter WASP-19b in nine spectroscopic channels from 1.25 to 2.35 microns. The measurements are based on the combined analysis of time-series spectroscopy obtained during two complete transits and two complete secondary eclipses of the planet. The observations were performed with the MMIRS instrument on the Magellan II telescope using the technique of multi-object spectroscopy with wide slits. We compare the transmission and emission data to theoretical models to constrain the composition and thermal structure of the planet’s atmosphere. Our measured transmission spectrum exhibits a scatter that corresponds to 1.3 scale heights of the planet’s atmosphere, which is consistent with the size of spectral features predicted by theoretical models for a clear atmosphere. We detected the secondary eclipses of the planet at significances ranging from 2.2 to 14.4 sigma. The secondary eclipse depths, and the significances of the detections increase towards longer wavelengths. Our measured emission spectrum is consistent with a 2250 K effectively isothermal 1-D model for the planet’s dayside atmosphere. This model also matches previously published photometric measurements from the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes. These results demonstrate the important role that ground-based observations using multi-object spectroscopy can play in constraining the properties of exoplanet atmospheres, and they also emphasize the need for high-precision measurements based on observations of multiple transits and eclipses.

Ground-based Transit Spectroscopy of the Hot-Jupiter WASP-19b in the Near-Infrared

We present ground-based measurements of the transmission and emission spectra of the hot-Jupiter WASP-19b in nine spectroscopic channels from 1.25 to 2.35 microns. The measurements are based on the combined analysis of time-series spectroscopy obtained during two complete transits and two complete secondary eclipses of the planet. The observations were performed with the MMIRS instrument on the Magellan II telescope using the technique of multi-object spectroscopy with wide slits. We compare the transmission and emission data to theoretical models to constrain the composition and thermal structure of the planet’s atmosphere. Our measured transmission spectrum exhibits a scatter that corresponds to 1.3 scale heights of the planet’s atmosphere, which is consistent with the size of spectral features predicted by theoretical models for a clear atmosphere. We detected the secondary eclipses of the planet at significances ranging from 2.2 to 14.4 sigma. The secondary eclipse depths, and the significances of the detections increase towards longer wavelengths. Our measured emission spectrum is consistent with a 2250 K effectively isothermal 1-D model for the planet’s dayside atmosphere. This model also matches previously published photometric measurements from the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes. These results demonstrate the important role that ground-based observations using multi-object spectroscopy can play in constraining the properties of exoplanet atmospheres, and they also emphasize the need for high-precision measurements based on observations of multiple transits and eclipses.

Confirmation of Hot Jupiter Kepler-41b via Phase Curve Analysis

We present high precision photometry of Kepler-41, a giant planet in a 1.86 day orbit around a G6V star that was recently confirmed through radial velocity measurements. We have developed a new method to confirm giant planets solely from the photometric light curve, and we apply this method herein to Kepler-41 to establish the validity of this technique. We generate a full phase photometric model by including the primary and secondary transits, ellipsoidal variations, Doppler beaming and reflected/emitted light from the planet. Third light contamination scenarios that can mimic a planetary transit signal are simulated by injecting a full range of dilution values into the model, and we re-fit each diluted light curve model to the light curve. The resulting constraints on the maximum occultation depth and stellar density combined with stellar evolution models rules out stellar blends and provides a measurement of the planet’s mass, size, and temperature. We expect about two dozen Kepler giant planets can be confirmed via this method.

Measuring Transit Signal Recovery in the Kepler Pipeline I: Individual Events

The Kepler Mission was designed to measure the frequency of Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars. A crucial component for recovering the underlying planet population from a sample of detected planets is understanding the completeness of that sample – what fraction of the planets that could have been discovered in a given data set were actually detected. Here we outline the information required to determine the sample completeness, and describe an experiment to address a specific aspect of that question, which is the issue of transit signal recovery. We investigate the extent to which the Kepler pipeline preserves individual transit signals by injecting simulated transits into the pixel-level data, processing the modified pixels through the pipeline, and comparing the measured transit signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to that expected without perturbation by the pipeline. We inject simulated transit signals across the full focal plane for a set of observations of length 89 days. On average, we find that the SNR of the injected signal is recovered at MS = 0.9973(+/-0.0012)xBS-0.0151(+/-0.0049), where MS is the measured SNR and BS is the baseline, or expected, SNR. The 1{\sigma} width of the distribution around this correlation is +/-2.64%. We discuss the pipeline processes that cause the measured SNR to deviate significantly from the baseline SNR; these are primarily the handling of data adjacent to spacecraft re-pointings and the removal of harmonics prior to the measurement of the SNR. Finally we outline the further work required to characterise the completeness of the Kepler pipeline.

On signals faint and sparse: the ACICA algorithm for blind de-trending of Exoplanetary transits with low signal-to-noise

Independent Component Analysis (ICA) has recently been shown to be a promising new path in data analysis and de-trending of exoplanetary time series signals. Such approaches do not require or assume any prior or auxiliary knowledge on the data or instrument in order to de-convolve the astrophysical light curve signal from instrument or stellar systematic noise. These methods are often known as ‘blind source separation’ (BSS) algorithms. Unfortunately all BSS methods suffer from a amplitude and sign ambiguity of their de-convolved components which severely limits these methods in low signal-to-noise (S/N) observations where their scalings cannot be determined otherwise. Here we present a novel approach to calibrate ICA using sparse wavelet calibrators. The Amplitude Calibrated Independent Component Analysis (ACICA) allows for the direct retrieval of the independent components’ scalings and the robust de-trending of low S/N data. Such an approach gives us an unique and unprecedented insight in the underlying morphology of a data set, making this method a powerful tool for exoplanetary data de-trending and signal diagnostics.

Optical Observations of the Transiting Exoplanet GJ 1214b

We observed nine primary transits of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b in several optical photometric bands from March to August 2012, with the goal of constraining the short-wavelength slope of the spectrum of GJ 1214b. Our observations were conducted on the Kuiper 1.55 m telescope in Arizona and the STELLA-I robotic 1.2 m telescope in Tenerife, Spain. From the derived light curves we extracted transit depths in R (0.65 {\mu}m), V (0.55 {\mu}m), and g’ (0.475 {\mu}m) bands. Most previous observations of this exoplanet suggest a flat spectrum varying little with wavelength from the near-infrared to the optical, corresponding to a low-scale-height, high-molecular-weight atmosphere. However, a handful of observations around Ks band (~2.15 {\mu}m) and g-band (~0.46 {\mu}m) are inconsistent with this scenario and suggest a variation on a hydrogen- or water-dominated atmosphere that also contains a haze layer of small particles. In particular, the g-band observations of de Mooij et al. (2012), consistent with Rayleigh scattering, limit the potential atmosphere compositions of GJ 1214b due to the increasing slope at optical wavelengths (Howe & Burrows 2012). We find that our results overlap within errors the short-wavelength observations of de Mooij et al. (2012), but are also consistent with a spectral slope of zero in GJ 1214b in the optical wavelength region. Our observations thus allow for a larger suite of possible atmosphere compositions, including those with a high-molecular-weight and/or hazes.

Optical Observations of the Transiting Exoplanet GJ 1214b [Replacement]

We observed nine primary transits of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b in several optical photometric bands from March to August 2012, with the goal of constraining the short-wavelength slope of the spectrum of GJ 1214b. Our observations were conducted on the Kuiper 1.55 m telescope in Arizona and the STELLA-I robotic 1.2 m telescope in Tenerife, Spain. From the derived light curves we extracted transit depths in R (0.65 {\mu}m), V (0.55 {\mu}m), and g’ (0.475 {\mu}m) bands. Most previous observations of this exoplanet suggest a flat spectrum varying little with wavelength from the near-infrared to the optical, corresponding to a low-scale-height, high-molecular-weight atmosphere. However, a handful of observations around Ks band (~2.15 {\mu}m) and g-band (~0.46 {\mu}m) are inconsistent with this scenario and suggest a variation on a hydrogen- or water-dominated atmosphere that also contains a haze layer of small particles. In particular, the g-band observations of de Mooij et al. (2012), consistent with Rayleigh scattering, limit the potential atmosphere compositions of GJ 1214b due to the increasing slope at optical wavelengths (Howe & Burrows 2012). We find that our results overlap within errors the short-wavelength observations of de Mooij et al. (2012), but are also consistent with a spectral slope of zero in GJ 1214b in the optical wavelength region. Our observations thus allow for a larger suite of possible atmosphere compositions, including those with a high-molecular-weight and/or hazes.

SOPHIE velocimetry of Kepler transit candidates. VIII. KOI-205 b: a brown-dwarf companion to a K-type dwarf

We report the discovery of a transiting brown dwarf companion to KOI-205, a K0 main-sequence star, in a 11.720125-day period orbit. The transits were detected by the Kepler space telescope, and the reflex motion of the star was measured using radial velocity observations obtained with the SOPHIE spectrograph. The atmospheric parameters of the host stars were determined from the analysis of high-resolution, high signal-to-noise ratio ESPaDOns spectra obtained for this purpose. Together with spectrophotometric measurements recovered from the literature, these spectra indicate that the star is a mildly metallic K0 dwarf with Teff 5237 $\pm$ 60 K. The mass of the companion is 39.9 $\pm$ 1.0 MJup and its radius is 0.81 $\pm$ 0.02 RJup, in agreement with current theoretical predictions. This is the first time a bona fide brown dwarf companion is detected in orbit around a star of this type. The formation and orbital evolution of brown dwarf companions is briefly discussed in the light of this new discovery.

Kepler-68: Three Planets, One With a Density Between That of Earth and Ice Giants

NASA’s Kepler Mission has revealed two transiting planets orbiting Kepler-68. Follow-up Doppler measurements have established the mass of the innermost planet and revealed a third jovian-mass planet orbiting beyond the two transiting planets. Kepler-68b, in a 5.4 day orbit has mass 8.3 +/- 2.3 Earth, radius 2.31 +/- 0.07 Earth radii, and a density of 3.32 +/- 0.92 (cgs), giving Kepler-68b a density intermediate between that of the ice giants and Earth. Kepler-68c is Earth-sized with a radius of 0.953 Earth and transits on a 9.6 day orbit; validation of Kepler-68c posed unique challenges. Kepler-68d has an orbital period of 580 +/- 15 days and minimum mass of Msin(i) = 0.947 Jupiter. Power spectra of the Kepler photometry at 1-minute cadence exhibit a rich and strong set of asteroseismic pulsation modes enabling detailed analysis of the stellar interior. Spectroscopy of the star coupled with asteroseismic modeling of the multiple pulsation modes yield precise measurements of stellar properties, notably Teff = 5793 +/- 74 K, M = 1.079 +/- 0.051 Msun, R = 1.243 +/- 0.019 Rsun, and density 0.7903 +/- 0.0054 (cgs), all measured with fractional uncertainties of only a few percent. Models of Kepler-68b suggest it is likely composed of rock and water, or has a H and He envelope to yield its density of about 3 (cgs).

Catastrophic Evaporation of Rocky Planets

Short-period exoplanets can have dayside surface temperatures surpassing 2000 K, hot enough to vaporize rock and drive a thermal wind. Small enough planets evaporate completely. We construct a radiative-hydrodynamic model of atmospheric escape from strongly irradiated, low-mass rocky planets, accounting for dust-gas energy exchange in the wind. Rocky planets with masses < 0.1 M_Earth (less than twice the mass of Mercury) and surface temperatures > 2000 K are found to disintegrate entirely in < 10 Gyr. When our model is applied to Kepler planet candidate KIC 12557548b — which is believed to be a rocky body evaporating at a rate of dM/dt ~ 1 M_Earth/Gyr — our model yields a present-day planet mass of ~0.01 M_Earth or about the mass of the Moon. Mass loss rates depend so strongly on planet mass that bodies can reside on close-in orbits for Gyrs with initial masses similar to that of Mercury, before entering a final short-lived phase of catastrophic mass loss (which KIC 12557548b has entered). Because this catastrophic stage lasts only ~1% of the planet’s life, we estimate that for every object like KIC 12557548b, there should be a few dozen close-in Mercury-sized progenitors whose direct transits might be detectable by Kepler with enough period folding. According to our calculations, KIC 12557548b has lost ~80% of its formation mass; today we may be observing its naked iron core.

Spitzer Transits of the Super-Earth GJ1214b and Implications for Its Atmosphere

We observed the transiting super-Earth exoplanet GJ1214b using Warm Spitzer at 4.5 microns wavelength during a 20-day quasi-continuous sequence in May 2011. The goals of our long observation were to accurately define the infrared transit radius of this nearby super-Earth, to search for the secondary eclipse, and to search for other transiting planets in the habitable zone of GJ1214. We here report results from the transit monitoring of GJ1214b, including a re-analysis of previous transit observations by Desert et al. (2011). In total, we analyse 14 transits of GJ1214b at 4.5 microns, 3 transits at 3.6 microns, and 7 new ground-based transits in the I+z band. Our new Spitzer data by themselves eliminate cloudless solar composition atmospheres for GJ1214b, and methane-rich models from Howe & Burrows (2012). Using our new Spitzer measurements to anchor the observed transit radii of GJ1214b at long wavelengths, and adding new measurements in I+z, we evaluate models from Benneke & Seager (2012) and Howe & Burrows (2012) using a chi-squared analysis. We find that the best-fit model exhibits an increase in transit radius at short wavelengths due to Rayleigh scattering. Pure water atmospheres are also possible. However, a flat line (no atmosphere detected) remains among the best of the statistically acceptable models, and better than pure water atmospheres. We explore the effect of systematic differences among results from different observational groups, and we find that the Howe & Burrows (2012) tholin-haze model remains the best fit, even when systematic differences among observers are considered.

 

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