Friday, July 31, 2015

HD 219134b Art Work: a Rocky SuperEarth


The paper will be posted here at the end of August.  Yeah, we've developed that much of a backlog.  If we were to build a backlog for six weeks, with three posts per day, then I'd shift upwards the posting rate.

Are There two Distinct and Separate L Class Brown Dwarf Populations Within 66 Light Years?

The Brown Dwarf Kinematics Project (BDKP). IV. Radial Velocities of 85 Late-M and L dwarfs with MagE


Burgasser et al


Radial velocity measurements are presented for 85 late M- and L-type very low mass stars and brown dwarfs obtained with the Magellan Echellette (MagE) spectrograph. Targets primarily have distances within 20 pc of the Sun, with more distant sources selected for their unusual spectral energy distributions. We achieved precisions of 2--3 km/s, and combined these with astrometric and spectrophotometric data to calculate UVW velocities. Most are members of the thin disk of the Galaxy, and velocity dispersions indicate a mean age of 5.2±0.2 Gyr for sources within 20 pc. We find significantly different kinematic ages between late-M dwarfs (4.0±0.2 Gyr) and L dwarfs (6.5±0.4 Gyr) in our sample that are contrary to predictions from prior simulations. This difference appears to be driven by a dispersed population of unusually blue L dwarfs which may be more prevalent in our local volume-limited sample than in deeper magnitude-limited surveys. The L dwarfs exhibit an asymmetric U velocity distribution with a net inward flow, similar to gradients recently detected in local stellar samples. Simulations incorporating brown dwarf evolution and Galactic orbital dynamics are unable to reproduce the velocity asymmetry, suggesting non-axisymmetric perturbations or two distinct L dwarf populations. We also find the L dwarfs to have a kinematic age-activity correlation similar to more massive stars. We identify several sources with low surface gravities, and two new substellar candidate members of nearby young moving groups: the astrometric binary DENIS J08230313−4912012AB, a low-probability member of the β Pictoris Moving Group; and 2MASS J15104786-2818174, a moderate-probability member of the 30-50 Myr Argus Association.

Spectroscopy of Brown Dwarf Binary Luhman 16AB

VLT X-shooter spectroscopy of the nearest brown dwarf binary


Lodieu et al


The aim of the project is to characterise both components of the nearest brown dwarf sytem to the Sun, WISE J104915.57-531906.1 (=Luhman16AB) at optical and near-infrared wavelengths. We obtained high signal-to-noise intermediate-resolution (R~6000-11000) optical (600-1000 nm) and near-infrared (1000-2480nm) spectra of each component of Luhman16AB, the closest brown dwarf binary to the Sun, with the X-Shooter instrument on the Very Large Telescope. We classify the primary and secondary of the Luhman16 system as L6-L7.5 and T0+/-1, respectively, in agreement with previous measurements published in the literature. We present measurements of the lithium pseudo-equivalent widths, which appears of similar strength on both components (8.2+/-1.0 Angstroms and 8.4+/-1.5 Angstroms for the L and T components, respectively). The presence of lithium (Lithium 7) in both components imply masses below 0.06 Msun while comparison with models suggests lower limits of 0.04 Msun. The detection of lithium in the T component is the first of its kind. Similarly, we assess the strength of other alkali lines (e.g. pseudo-equivalent widths of 6-7 Angstroms for RbI and 4-7 Angstroms for CsI) present in the optical and near-infrared regions and compare with estimates for L and T dwarfs. We also derive effective temperatures and luminosities of each component of the binary: -4.66+/-0.08 dex and 1305(+180)(-135) for the L dwarf and -4.68+/-0.13 dex and 1320(+185)(-135) for the T dwarf, respectively. Using our radial velocity determinations, the binary does not appear to belong to any of the well-known moving group. Our preliminary theoretical analysis of the optical and J-band spectra indicates that the L- and T-type spectra can be reproduced with a single temperature and gravity but different relative chemical abundances which impact strongly the spectral energy distribution of L/T transition objects.

No "hot" Jupiters Around Brown Dwarf Binary Luhman 16AB

Mass ratio of the 2 pc binary brown dwarf LUH16 and limits on planetary companions from astrometry


Sahlmann et al


We analyse FORS2/VLT I-band imaging data to monitor the motions of both components in the most nearby known binary brown dwarf WISE J104915.57-531906.1AB (LUH16) over one year. The astrometry is dominated by parallax and proper motion, but with a precision of ∼0.2 milli-arcsecond per epoch we accurately measure the relative position change caused by the orbital motion of the pair. This allows us to directly determine a mass ratio of q=0.78±0.10 for this system. We also search for the signature of a planetary-mass companion around either of the A and B component and exclude at 3-σ the presence of planets with masses larger than 2MJup and orbital periods of 20-300 d. We update the parallax of LUH16 to 500.51±0.11 mas, i.e. just within 2 pc. This study yields the first direct constraint on the mass ratio of LUH16 and shows that the system does not harbour any close-in giant planets.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hot Jupiter HD 189733b's Transit Detected by SOPHIA

First exoplanet transit observation with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy: Confirmation of Rayleigh scattering in HD 189733 b with HIPO


Angerhausen et al


Here we report on the first successful exoplanet transit observation with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). We observed a single transit of the hot Jupiter HD 189733 b, obtaining two simultaneous primary transit lightcurves in the B and z' bands as a demonstration of SOFIA's capability to perform absolute transit photometry. We present a detailed description of our data reduction, in particular the correlation of photometric systematics with various in-flight parameters unique to the airborne observing environment. The derived transit depths at B and z' wavelengths confirm a previously reported slope in the optical transmission spectrum of HD 189733 b. Our results give new insights to the current discussion about the source of this Rayleigh scattering in the upper atmosphere and the question of fixed limb darkening coefficients in fitting routines.

PTFO 8-8695: A 3 MYr Old T-Tauri Star Hosting a Potential hot Jupiter

Follow-Up Observations of PTFO 8-8695: A 3 MYr Old T-Tauri Star Hosting a Jupiter-mass Planetary Candidate


Ciardi et al


We present Spitzer 4.5\micron\ light curve observations, Keck NIRSPEC radial velocity observations, and LCOGT optical light curve observations of PTFO~8-8695, which may host a Jupiter-sized planet in a very short orbital period (0.45 days). Previous work by \citet{vaneyken12} and \citet{barnes13} predicts that the stellar rotation axis and the planetary orbital plane should precess with a period of 300−600 days. As a consequence, the observed transits should change shape and depth, disappear, and reappear with the precession. Our observations indicate the long-term presence of the transit events (>3 years), and that the transits indeed do change depth, disappear and reappear. The Spitzer observations and the NIRSPEC radial velocity observations (with contemporaneous LCOGT optical light curve data) are consistent with the predicted transit times and depths for the M⋆=0.34 M precession model and demonstrate the disappearance of the transits. An LCOGT optical light curve shows that the transits do reappear approximately 1 year later. The observed transits occur at the times predicted by a straight-forward propagation of the transit ephemeris. The precession model correctly predicts the depth and time of the Spitzer transit and the lack of a transit at the time of the NIRSPEC radial velocity observations. However, the precession model predicts the return of the transits approximately 1 month later than observed by LCOGT. Overall, the data are suggestive that the planetary interpretation of the observed transit events may indeed be correct, but the precession model and data are currently insufficient to confirm firmly the planetary status of PTFO~8-8695b.

Compact Exoplanets Made With Dark Matter

Dark Compact Planets


Tolos et al


We investigate compact objects formed by dark matter admixed with ordinary matter made of neutron star matter and white dwarf material. We consider non-self annihilating dark matter with an equation-of-state given by an interacting Fermi gas. We find new stable solutions, dark compact planets, with Earth-like masses and radii from few Km to few hundred Km for weakly interacting dark matter. For the strongly interacting dark matter case, we obtain dark compact planets with Jupiter-like masses and radii of few hundred Km. These objects could be formed primordially and accrete white dwarf material subsequently. They could be detected by observing exoplanets with unusually small radii. Moreover, we find that the recently observed 2 M pulsars set limits on the amount of dark matter inside neutron stars which is, at most, 10−6M.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Brown Dwarf LSRJ1835+3259's Aurora Detected

Brown dwarf stars host powerful aurora displays just like planets, astronomers have discovered.

The so-called failed stars, which are difficult to detect and also remain hard to classify, are too massive to be planets but physicists from the Universities of Sheffield and Oxford have revealed that they host powerful auroras just like Earth.

The international team of researchers made the discovery by observing a brown dwarf 20 light years away using both radio and optical telescopes. Their findings provide further evidence that suggests these stars act more like supersized planets.

Dr Stuart Littlefair, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: "Brown dwarfs span the gap between stars and planets and these results are yet more evidence that we need to think of brown dwarfs as beefed-up planets, rather than "failed stars".

"We already know that brown dwarfs have cloudy atmospheres - like planets - although the clouds in brown dwarfs are made of minerals that form rocks on Earth now we know brown dwarfs host powerful auroras too."

He added: "Sometimes the best thing about a scientific result is simply the thrill of discovering something exciting and cool. The northern lights on Earth are one of the most spectacular and beautiful things you can see.

"I've always wanted to see them, but have never got the chance. It's particularly ironic that I got to discover an auroral light show which is vastly more powerful and many light years away!"

Auroral displays result when charged particles manage to enter a planet's magnetic field. Once within the magnetosphere, those particles get accelerated along the planet's magnetic field lines to the planet's poles where they collide with gas atoms in the atmosphere, producing the bright emissions associated with auroras.

During the study the international research team, led by Professor Gregg Hallinan from the California Institute of Technology, conducted an extensive observation campaign of a brown dwarf called LSRJ1835+3259.

The team used the most powerful radio telescope in the world, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) in New Mexico, as well as optical telescopes including Palomar's Hale Telescope and the W.M Keck Observatory's telescopes to make their ground breaking observations.

Using the JVLA they detected a bright pulse of radio waves that appeared as the brown dwarf rotated around. The object rotates every 2.84 hours, so the team were able to watch nearly three full rotations over the course of a single night.

Close-in Giant Exoplanets Probably Preclude Terrestrial Exoplanet Formation

HD 80606: Searching the chemical signature of planet formation


Saffe et al


Binary systems with similar components are ideal laboratories which allow several physical processes to be tested, such as the possible chemical pattern imprinted by the planet formation process. Aims. We explore the probable chemical signature of planet formation in the remarkable binary system HD 80606 - HD 80607. The star HD 80606 hosts a giant planet with 4 MJup detected by both transit and radial velocity techniques, being one of the most eccentric planets detected to date. We study condensation temperature Tc trends of volatile and refractory element abundances to determine whether there is a depletion of refractories that could be related to the terrestrial planet formation. Methods. We carried out a high-precision abundance determination in both components of the binary system, using a line-by-line strictly differential approach, using the Sun as a reference and then using HD 80606 as reference. We used an updated version of the program FUNDPAR, together with ATLAS9 model atmospheres and the MOOG code. Conclusions. From the study of Tc trends, we concluded that the stars HD 80606 and HD 80607 do not seem to be depleted in refractory elements, which is different for the case of the Sun. Then, the terrestrial planet formation would have been less efficient in the components of this binary system than in the Sun. The lack of a trend for refractory elements with Tc between both stars implies that the presence of a giant planet do not neccesarily imprint a chemical signature in their host stars, similar to the recent result of Liu et al. (2014). This is also in agreement with Melendez et al. (2009), who suggest that the presence of close-in giant planets might prevent the formation of terrestrial planets. Finally, we speculate about a possible planet around the star HD 80607.

Potentially Surprising Irradiated Giant-planet Cloud Precipitate

Giant-planet chemistry: Ammonium hydrosulfide (NH4SH), its IR spectra and thermal and radiolytic stabilities


Loeffler et al


Here we present our recent studies of proton-irradiated and unirradiated ammonium hydrosulfide, NH4SH, a compound predicted to be an important tropospheric cloud component of Jupiter and other giant planets. We irradiated both crystalline and amorphous NH4SH at 10–160 K and used IR spectroscopy to observe and identify reaction products in the ice, specifically NH3 and long-chained sulfur-containing ions. Crystalline NH4SH was amorphized during irradiation at all temperatures studied with the rate being the fastest at the lowest temperatures. Irradiation of amorphous NH4SH at ∼10–75 K showed that 60–80% of the NH4+ remained when equilibrium was reached, and that NH4SH destruction rates were relatively constant within this temperature range. Irradiations at higher temperatures produced different dose dependence and were accompanied by pressure outbursts that, in some cases, fractured the ice. The thermal stability of irradiated NH4SH was found to be greater than that of unirradiated NH4SH, suggesting that an irradiated giant-planet cloud precipitate can exist at temperatures and altitudes not previously considered.

OGLE-2012-BLG-0563Lb: a Saturn-mass gas Giant Orbiting .75 AU Around a M Dwarf Star

OGLE-2012-BLG-0563Lb: a Saturn-mass Planet around an M Dwarf with the Mass Constrained by Subaru AO imaging


Fukui et al


We report the discovery of a microlensing exoplanet OGLE-2012-BLG-0563Lb with the planet-star mass ratio ~1 x 10^{-3}. Intensive photometric observations of a high-magnification microlensing event allow us to detect a clear signal of the planet. Although no parallax signal is detected in the light curve, we instead succeed at detecting the flux from the host star in high-resolution JHK'-band images obtained by the Subaru/AO188 and IRCS instruments, allowing us to constrain the absolute physical parameters of the planetary system. With the help of a spectroscopic information of the source star obtained during the high-magnification state by Bensby et al. (2013), we find that the lens system is located at 1.3^{+0.6}_{-0.8} kpc from us, and consists of an M dwarf (0.34^{+0.12}_{-0.20} M_sun) orbited by a Saturn-mass planet (0.39^{+0.14}_{-0.23} M_Jup) at the projected separation of 0.74^{+0.26}_{-0.42} AU (close model) or 4.3^{+1.5}_{-2.5} AU (wide model). The probability of contamination in the host star's flux, which would reduce the masses by a factor of up to 3, is estimated to be 17%. This possibility can be tested by future high-resolution imaging. We also estimate the (J-Ks) and (H-Ks) colors of the host star, which are marginally consistent with a low-metallicity mid-to-early M dwarf, although further observations are required for the metallicity to be conclusive. This is the fifth sub-Jupiter-mass (0.2 less than m_p/M_Jup less than 1) microlensing planet around an M dwarf with the mass well constrained. The relatively rich harvest of sub-Jupiters around M dwarfs is contrasted with a possible paucity of ~1--2 Jupiter-mass planets around the same type of star, which can be explained by the planetary formation process in the core accretion scheme.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Capabilities of a 2M Space Coronagraphs to Characterize Rocky and Gaseous Exoplanets

Characterizing Rocky and Gaseous Exoplanets with 2-meter Class Space-based Coronagraphs: General Considerations


Robinson et al


Several concepts now exist for small, space-based missions to directly characterize exoplanets in reflected light. Here, we develop an instrument noise model suitable for studying the spectral characterization potential of a coronagraph-equipped, space-based telescope. We adopt a baseline set of telescope and instrument parameters, including a 2 m diameter primary aperture, an operational wavelength range of 0.4-1.0 um, and an instrument spectral resolution of 70, and apply our baseline model to a variety of spectral models of different planet types, including Earth twins, Jupiter twins, and warm and cool Jupiters and Neptunes. With our exoplanet spectral models, we explore wavelength-dependent planet-star flux ratios for main sequence stars of various effective temperatures, and discuss how coronagraph inner and outer working angle constraints will influence the potential to study different types of planets. For planets most favorable to spectroscopic characterization---cool Jupiters and Neptunes as well as nearby Earth twins and super-Earths---we study the integration times required to achieve moderate signal-to-noise ratio spectra. We also explore the sensitivity of the integration times required to detect the base of key absorption bands (for methane, water vapor, and molecular oxygen) to coronagraph raw contrast performance, exozodiacal light levels, and the distance to the planetary system. Most modeled observations have noise dominated by dark current, indicating that improving CCD performance could substantially drive down requisite integration times. Finally, we briefly discuss the extension of our models to a more distant future Large UV-Optical-InfraRed (LUVOIR) mission.

Scaling Tidal Dissipation Simulations

Scaling laws to understand tidal dissipation in fluid planetary regions and stars I - Rotation, stratification and thermal diffusivity


Auclair-Desrotour et al


Tidal dissipation in planets and stars is one of the key physical mechanisms driving the evolution of star-planet and planet-moon systems. Several signatures of its action are observed in planetary systems thanks to their orbital architecture and the rotational state of their components. Tidal dissipation inside the fluid layers of celestial bodies are intrinsically linked to the dynamics and the physical properties of the latter. This complex dependence must be characterized. We compute the tidal kinetic energy dissipated by viscous friction and thermal diffusion in a rotating local fluid Cartesian section of a star/planet/moon submitted to a periodic tidal forcing. The properties of tidal gravito-inertial waves excited by the perturbation are derived analytically as explicit functions of the tidal frequency and local fluid parameters (i.e. the rotation, the buoyancy frequency characterizing the entropy stratification, viscous and thermal diffusivities) for periodic normal modes. The sensitivity of the resulting possibly highly resonant dissipation frequency-spectra to a control parameter of the system is either important or negligible depending on the position in the regime diagram relevant for planetary and stellar interiors. For corresponding asymptotic behaviors of tidal gravito-inertial waves dissipated by viscous friction and thermal diffusion, scaling laws for the frequencies, number, width, height and contrast with the non-resonant background of resonances are derived to quantify these variations. We characterize the strong impact of the internal physics and dynamics of fluid planetary layers and stars on the dissipation of tidal kinetic energy in their bulk. We point out the key control parameters that really play a role and demonstrate how it is now necessary to develop ab-initio modeling for tidal dissipation in celestial bodies.

Epsilon Eridani System Resolved

The Epsilon Eridani System Resolved by Millimeter Interferometry


MacGregor et al


We present observations of Epsilon Eridani from the Submillimeter Array (SMA) at 1.3 millimeters and from the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) at 7 millimeters that reach an angular resolution of ~4" (13 AU). These first millimeter interferometer observations of Epsilon Eridani, which hosts the closest debris disk to the Sun, reveal two distinct emission components: (1) the well-known outer dust belt, which, although patchy, is clearly resolved in the radial direction, and (2) an unresolved source coincident with the position of the star. We use direct model-fitting of the millimeter visibilities to constrain the basic properties of these two components. A simple Gaussian shape for the outer belt fit to the SMA data results in a radial location of 64.4+2.4−3.0 AU and FWHM of 20.2+6.0−8.2 AU (fractional width ΔR/R=0.3. Similar results are obtained taking a power law radial emission profile for the belt, though the power law index cannot be usefully constrained. Within the noise obtained (0.2 mJy/beam), these data are consistent with an axisymmetric belt model and show no significant azimuthal structure that might be introduced by unseen planets in the system. These data also limit any stellocentric offset of the belt to less than 9 AU, which disfavors the presence of giant planets on highly eccentric (greater than 0.1) and wide (10's of AU) orbits. The flux density of the unresolved central component exceeds predictions for the stellar photosphere at these long wavelengths, by a marginally significant amount at 1.3 millimeters but by a factor of a few at 7 millimeters (with brightness temperature 13000±1600 K for a source size of the optical stellar radius). We attribute this excess emission to ionized plasma from a stellar corona or chromosphere.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Within 38 Light Years, There are 18 Pre Main Sequence M Dwarf Stellar Systems With Transient Habitable Zones

Observations of exoplanets in time-evolving habitable zones of pre-main-sequence M dwarfs




It is recently proposed that planets in the habitable zones (HZ) of pre-main-sequence (PMS) M dwarfs are good targets for the detection of habitable environments. In this note we show that future ground-based telescopes will be able to observe planets in time-evolving HZ of PMS M dwarfs with duration 10–100 Myrs. Based on X-ray measurements, there are greater than 18 M0–M4 PMS stars within 10 pc, the characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets around which could provide highly valuable information regarding the evolution of habitable environments. There are tens of M dwarfs within 10 pc with X-ray to total luminosity ratios similar to that of the young Sun, the observations of potential planets around which could significantly improve our understanding of the physical states of early Solar System rocky planets.

Kapteyn's star Terrestrial Exoplanet is NOT a False Positive

No evidence for activity correlations in the radial velocities of Kapteyn's star


Anglada-Escudé et al


Stellar activity may induce Doppler variability at the level of a few m/s which can then be confused by the Doppler signal of an exoplanet orbiting the star. To first order, linear correlations between radial velocity measurements and activity indices have been proposed to account for any such correlation. The likely presence of two super-Earths orbiting Kapteyn's star was reported in Anglada et al. (2014, MNRAS 443L, 89A), but this claim was recently challenged by Robertson et al. (2015, ApJ 805L, 22R) arguing evidence of a rotation period (143 days) at three times the orbital period of one of the proposed planets (Kapteyn's b, P=48.6 days), and the existence of strong linear correlations between its Doppler signal and activity data. By re-analyzing the data using global optimization methods and model comparison, we show that such claim is incorrect given that; 1) the choice of a rotation period at 143 days is unjustified, and 2) the presence of linear correlations is not supported by the data. We conclude that the radial velocity signals of Kapteyn's star remain more simply explained by the presence of two super-Earth candidates orbiting it. We also advocate for the use of global optimization procedures and objective arguments, instead of claims lacking of a minimal statistical support.

Kepler-452b: a 1.6 Earth Radius SuperEarth/Mini Neptune in the Habitable Zone



Jenkins et al


We report on the discovery and validation of Kepler-452b, a transiting planet identified by a search through the 4 years of data collected by NASA's Kepler Mission. This possibly rocky 1.63(+0.23/-0.20) R planet orbits its G2 host star every 384.843 (+0.007/-0.012) days, the longest orbital period for a small (R less than 2 R) transiting exoplanet to date. The likelihood that this planet has a rocky composition lies between 49% and 62%. The star has an effective temperature of 5757 ± 85 K and alog g of 4.32 ± 0.09. At a mean orbital separation of 1.046 (+0.019/-0.015) AU, this small planet is well within the optimistic habitable zone of its star (recent Venus/early Mars), experiencing only 10% more flux than Earth receives from the Sun today, and slightly outside the conservative habitable zone (runaway greenhouse/maximum greenhouse). The star is slightly larger and older than the Sun, with a present radius of 1.11 (+0.15/-0.09) R and an estimated age of ~6 Gyr. Thus, Kepler-452b has likely always been in the habitable zone and should remain there for another ~3 Gyr.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Astrophysical Sources of Uncertainty in Radial Velocities

Astrophysical Sources of Statistical Uncertainty in Precision Radial Velocities and Their Approximations


Beatty et al


We investigate astrophysical contributions to the statistical uncertainty of precision radial velocity measurements of stellar spectra. We analytically determine the uncertainty in centroiding isolated spectral lines broadened by Gaussian, Lorentzian, Voigt, and rotational profiles, finding that for all cases and assuming weak lines, the uncertainty is the line centroid is σV≈CΘ3/2/(WI1/20), where Θ is the full-width at half-maximum of the line, W is the equivalent width, and I0 is the continuum signal-to-noise ratio, with C a constant of order unity that depends on the specific line profile. We use this result to motivate approximate analytic expressions to the total radial velocity uncertainty for a stellar spectrum with a given photon noise, resolution, wavelength, effective temperature, surface gravity, metallicity, macroturbulence, and stellar rotation. We use these relations to determine the dominant contributions to the statistical uncertainties in precision radial velocity measurements as a function of effective temperature and mass for main-sequence stars. For stars more than ∼1.1M⊙ we find that stellar rotation dominates the velocity uncertainties for moderate and high resolution spectra (R≳30,000). For less massive stars, a variety of sources contribute depending on the spectral resolution and wavelength, with photon noise due to decreasing bolometric luminosity generally becoming increasingly important for low-mass stars at fixed exposure time and distance. In most cases, resolutions greater than 60,000 provide little benefit in terms of statistical precision. We determine the optimal wavelength range for stars of various spectral types, finding that the optimal region depends on the stellar effective temperature, but for mid M-dwarfs and earlier the most efficient wavelength region is from 6000A to 9000A.

James Webb Space Telescope’s Cryogenic Cooler Technical Glitches Resolved

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems has apparently solved technical problems plaguing the James Webb Space Telescope’s cryogenic cooler and is ready to ship the hardware to NASA for environmental testing, the U.S. space agency said.

“The planned delivery date for the cryocooler compressor assembly from Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is officially July 28,” NASA spokeswoman Felicia Chou wrote in a July 22 email.

That was apparently news to Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division, who told members of the NASA Advisory Council’s astrophysics subcommittee a day earlier the Mid-Infrared Instrument’s (MIRI) cryocooler had already made the 50 kilometer journey north to Pasadena, California, from Northrop’s Redondo Beach facility.

China Begins Building FAST (World's Largest Single Apeture Radio Telescope)

China has started assembling the world's largest radio telescope, which will have a dish the size of 30 football pitches when completed, state media reported as Beijing steps up its ambitions in outer space.

The five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) nestles in a bowl-shaped valley between hills in the southwestern province of Guizhou, images posted online show.

Technicians began attaching 4,450 triangular-shaped panels to the telescope's reflector on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

FAST will be the world's largest single-aperture telescope, it said, overtaking the Arecibo Observatory in the US territory of Puerto Rico, which is 305 metres (1000 feet) in diameter.

For years Chinese scientists have relied on "second hand" data collected by others in their research and the new telescope is expected to "greatly enhance" the country's capacity to observe outer space, Xinhua said.

"Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages," it cited Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, as saying.

"It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Evidence of Disk Precession Around Sco X-1?

K2 and MAXI observations of Sco X-1 - Evidence for disc precession?


Hakala et al


Sco X-1 is the archetypal low mass X-ray binary (LMXB) and the brightest persistent extra-solar X-ray source in the sky. It was included in the K2 Campaign 2 field and was observed continuously for 71 days with 1 minute time resolution. In this paper we report these results and underline the potential of K2 for similar observations of other accreting compact binaries. We reconfirm that Sco X-1 shows a bimodal distribution of optical "high" and "low" states and rapid transitions between them on timescales less than 3 hours (or 0.15 orbits). We also find evidence that this behaviour has a typical systemic timescale of 4.8 days, which we interpret as a possible disc precession period in the system. Finally, we confirm the complex optical vs. X-ray correlation/anticorrelation behaviour for "high" and "low" optical states respectively.

Bimodality of Circumstellar Disk Evolution Induced by Hall Current

Bimodality of circumstellar disk evolution induced by Hall current


Tsukamoto et al


The formation process of circumstellar disks is still controversial because of the interplay of complex physical processes that occurs during the gravitational collapse of prestellar cores. In this study, we investigate the effect of the Hall current term on the formation of circumstellar disk using three-dimensional simulations. In our simulations, all non-ideal effects as well as the radiation transfer are considered. We show that the size of the disk is significantly affected by a simple difference in the inherent properties of the prestellar core, namely whether the rotation vector and the magnetic field are parallel or anti-parallel. In the former case, only a very small disk ( less than 1 AU) is formed. On the other hand, in the latter case, a massive and large (greater than 20 AU) disk is formed in the early phase of protostar formation. We also show that the anti-rotating envelopes against the disk-rotation appear with a size of ≳200 AU. We predict that the anti-rotating envelope will be found in the future observations.

Magnetic Fields of Giant Protoplanets and Their Effects

Magnetic fields in gaps surrounding giant protoplanets


Keith et al


Giant protoplanets evacuate a gap in their host protoplanetary disc, which gas must cross before it can be accreted. A magnetic field is likely carried into the gap, potentially influencing the flow. Gap crossing has been simulated with varying degrees of attention to field evolution (pure hydrodynamical, ideal, and resistive MHD), but as yet there has been no detailed assessment of the role of the field accounting for all three key non-ideal MHD effects: Ohmic resistivity, ambipolar diffusion, and Hall drift. We present a detailed investigation of gap magnetic field structure as determined by non-ideal effects. We assess susceptibility to turbulence induced by the magnetorotational instability, and angular momentum loss from large-scale fields. As full non-ideal simulations are computationally expensive, we take an a posteriori approach, estimating MHD quantities from the pure hydrodynamical gap crossing simulation by Tanigawa et al. (2012). We calculate the ionisation fraction and estimate field strength and geometry to determine the strength of non-ideal effects. We find that the protoplanetary disc field would be easily drawn into the gap and circumplanetary disc. Hall drift dominates, so that much of the gap is conditionally MRI unstable depending on the alignment of the field and disc rotation axes. Field alignment also influences the strong toroidal field component permeating the gap. Large-scale magnetic forces are small in the circumplanetary disc, indicating they cannot drive accretion there. However, turbulence will be key during satellite growth as it affects critical disc features, such as the location of the ice line.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Kepler-138 System, Transit Timing Variations & Deriving Exoplanet Characteristcs

42 Brown Dwarfs Found by BANYAN

BANYAN. VII. A New Population of Young Substellar Candidate Members of Nearby Moving Groups from the BASS Survey


Gagné et al


We present the results of a near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopic follow-up survey of 182 M4-L7 low-mass stars and brown dwarfs (BDs) from the BANYAN All-Sky Survey (BASS) for candidate members of nearby, young moving groups (YMGs). We confirm signs of low-gravity for 42 new BD discoveries with estimated masses between 8-75 MJup and identify previously unrecognized signs of low gravity for 24 known BDs. This allows us to refine the fraction of low-gravity dwarfs in the high-probability BASS sample to ∼82%. We use this unique sample of 66 young BDs, supplemented with 22 young BDs from the literature, to construct new empirical NIR absolute magnitude and color sequences for low-gravity BDs. We obtain a spectroscopic confirmation of low-gravity for 2MASS J14252798-3650229, which is a new ∼27 MJup, L4 γ bona fide member of AB Doradus. We identify a total of 19 new low-gravity candidate members of YMGs with estimated masses below 13 MJup, seven of which have kinematically estimated distances within 40 pc. These objects will be valuable benchmarks for a detailed atmospheric characterization of planetary-mass objects with the next generation of instruments. We find 16 strong candidate members of the Tucana-Horologium association with estimated masses between 12.5-14 MJup, a regime where our study was particularly sensitive. This would indicate that for this association there is at least one isolated object in this mass range for every 17.5+6.6−5.0 main-sequence stellar member, a number significantly higher than expected based on standard log-normal initial mass function, however in the absence of radial velocity and parallax measurements for all of them, it is likely that this over-density is caused by a number of young interlopers from other moving groups. We identify 12 new L0-L5 field BDs, seven of which display peculiar properties.

How Fast do Young Brown Dwarfs Rotate?

Rotation Periods of Young Brown Dwarfs: K2 Survey in Upper Scorpius


Scholz et al


We report rotational periods for 16 young brown dwarfs in the nearby Upper Scorpius association, based on 72 days of high-cadence, high-precision photometry from the Kepler space telescope's K2 mission. The periods range from a few hours to two days (plus one outlier at 5 days), with a median just above one day, confirming that brown dwarfs, except at the very youngest ages, are fast rotators. Interestingly, four of the slowest rotators in our sample exhibit mid-infrared excess emission from disks; at least two also show signs of disk eclipses and accretion in the lightcurves. Comparing these new periods with those for two other young clusters and simple angular momentum evolution tracks, we find little or no rotational braking in brown dwarfs between 1-10 Myr, in contrast to low-mass stars. Our findings show that disk braking, while still at work, is inefficient in the substellar regime, thus provide an important constraint on the mass dependence of the braking mechanism.

Hunting for Exoplanets Around in the Two Nearest Brown Dwarf Systems

A Search for Substellar Companions to the Two Nearest Brown Dwarf Systems


Melso et al


WISE J104915.57-531906.1 A+B and WISE J085510.83-071442.5 were recently discovered as the third and fourth closest known systems to the Sun, respectively (2.0 and 2.3 pc). The former consists of a L8+T0.5 binary and the latter is a probable Y dwarf and is the coldest known brown dwarf (~250 K). We present a search for common proper motion companions to these brown dwarfs using multi-epoch mid-infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. We have also obtained near-infrared adaptive optics images of WISE J104915.57-531906.1 A+B with the Very Large Telescope to search for companions at smaller separations than reached by Spitzer. No new companions are detected in either system. At projected separations of 25-420" (50-840 AU) for WISE J104915.57-531906.1 A+B and 4-420" (9-970 AU) for WISE J085510.83-071442.5, the Spitzer images are sensitive to companions with M_4.5 less than 21.6 and 21.9, respectively, which correspond to masses of greater than or equal 1 M_Jup for ages of greater than or equal 1 Gyr and temperatures of greater than or equal 150 K. The detection limit in the adaptive optics images of WISE J104915.57-531906.1 A+B is dH~10 at 3-15" (6-30 AU), or greater than or equal 7 M_Jup for greater than or equal 1 Gyr.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kepler-452b Hangout With SETI Institute

Reexamining Kepler Planet Candidates in the Sub-Jovian Desert

Vetting Kepler Planet Candidates in the Sub-Jovian Desert with Multi-Band Photometry


Colón et al


We present new multi-band transit photometry of three small (Rp less than 6 R), short-period (P less than 6 days) Kepler planet candidates acquired with the Gran Telescopio Canarias. These observations supplement the results presented in Col\'on & Ford (2011) and Col\'on et al. (2012), where we used multicolor transit photometry of five Kepler planet candidates to search for wavelength-dependent transit depths and either validate planet candidates or identify eclipsing binary false positives within our sample. In those previous studies, we provided evidence that three targets were false positives and two targets were planets. Here, we present observations that provide evidence supporting a planetary nature for KOI 439.01 and KOI 732.01, and we find that KOI 531.01, a 6 R planet candidate around an M dwarf, is likely a false positive. We also present a discussion of the purported "sub-Jovian desert" in the orbital period-planet radius plane, which cannot be easily explained by observational bias. Both KOI 439.01 and KOI 732.01 are likely planets located within the so-called desert and should be investigated with further follow-up observations. As only ~30 of the ~3600 currently active Kepler planet candidates are located within the sub-Jovian desert, it will be interesting to see if these candidates also survive the vetting process and fill in the gap in the period-radius plane. Confirming planets in this regime will be important for understanding planetary migration and evolution processes, and we urge additional follow-up observations of these planet candidates to confirm their nature.

HD 164595b: a hot Neptune Around a Solar Analog

The SOPHIE search for northern extrasolar planets VIII. A warm Neptune orbiting HD164595


Courcol et al


High-precision radial velocity surveys are exploring the population of low-mass exoplanets orbiting bright stars, allowing to derive their orbital parameters accurately, their occurrence rate as well as the statistical distribution of their properties with the aim of constraining planetary models of formation and evolution. The SOPHIE spectrograph has been continuously improved these last years and thanks to an appropriate correction of systematic instrumental drift is now reaching the 2 m/s precision in radial velocity measurements on all time scales. As part of a dedicated radial velocity survey devoting to search for low mass planets around a sample of 190 bright solar-type stars in the northern hemisphere, we report the detection of a warm Neptune with a minimum mass of 16.1 +- 2.7 Mearth orbiting in 40 +- 0.24 days the solar analog HD164595. We also revised the parameters of the muti-planetary system around HD190360. We discuss this new detection in the context of the upcoming space mission CHEOPS devoted to a transit search of bright stars harboring known exoplanets.

Kepler Finds 12 Terrestrial or SuperEarth ExoPlanets in the Habitable Zone

Scientists analyzing four years of data from NASA's Kepler mission have released a new catalog of exoplanet candidates.

The catalog adds more than 500 new possible planets to the 4,175 already found by the famed space-based telescope.

"This catalog contains our first analysis of all Kepler data, as well as an automated assessment of these results," says SETI Institute scientist Jeffrey Coughlin who led the catalog effort. "Improved analysis will allow astronomers to better determine the number of small, cool planets that are the best candidates for hosting life."

The Kepler space telescope identifies possible planets by observing periodic dips in the brightness of stars. However, confirmation of their true planetary status requires observations by other instruments, typically looking for slight shifts in the motion of the host suns. Historically, the overwhelming majority of Kepler's discoveries have turned out to be actual planets.

The new catalog includes 12 candidates that are less than twice Earth's diameter, orbiting in the so-called habitable zone of their star. This zone is the range of distances at which the energy flux from the star would permit liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. Of these candidates, Kepler 452b is the first to be confirmed as a planet. At a distance of 1,400 light-years, Kepler 452b accompanies a star whose characteristics are very similar to the Sun: it is 4 percent more massive and 10 percent brighter. Kepler 452b orbits its star at the same distance as Earth orbits the Sun.

"Kepler 452b takes us one step closer to understanding how many habitable planets are out there," notes Joseph Twicken, also of the SETI Institute and the lead scientific programmer for the Kepler mission. "Continued investigation of the other candidates in this catalog and one final run of the Kepler science pipeline will help us find the smallest and coolest planets. Doing so will allow us to better gauge the prevalence of habitable worlds."

Kepler 452b has a better than even chance of being a rocky world on the basis of its size and the type of star that it orbits. It falls into a class of planets that are between the size of Earth and Neptune. While these are the most abundant type of world found by Kepler, our own solar system does not boast such a planet.

Intriguingly, while similar in size and brightness to the Sun, Kepler 452b's host star is 1.5 billion years older. It therefore can give us a peek into a crystal ball showing a possible future for Earth.

"If Kepler 452b is indeed a rocky planet, its location vis-a-vis its star could mean that it is just entering a runaway greenhouse phase of its climate history," says Doug Caldwell, a SETI Institute scientist working on the Kepler mission. "The increasing energy from its aging sun might be heating the surface and evaporating any oceans. The water vapor would be lost from the planet forever."

"Kepler 452b could be experiencing now what the Earth will undergo more than a billion years from now, as the Sun ages and grows brighter."

Three Dimensional Simulated Photoevaporative Mass Loss of hot Jupiters

Simulated Photoevaporative Mass Loss from Hot Jupiters in 3D


Tripathi et al


Ionizing stellar photons heat the upper regions of planetary atmospheres, driving atmospheric mass loss. Gas escaping from several hot, hydrogen-rich planets has been detected using UV and X-ray transmission spectroscopy. Because these planets are tidally locked, and thus asymmetrically irradiated, escaping gas is unlikely to be spherically symmetric. In this paper, we focus on the effects of asymmetric heating on local outflow structure. We use the Athena code for hydrodynamics to produce 3D simulations of hot Jupiter mass loss that jointly model wind launching and stellar heating via photoionization. Our fiducial planet is an inflated, hot Jupiter with radius Rp=2.14RJup and mass Mp=0.53MJup. We irradiate the initially neutral, atomic hydrogen atmosphere with 13.6 eV photons and compute the outflow's ionization structure. There are clear asymmetries in the atmospheric outflow, including a neutral shadow on the planet's nightside. Given an incident ionizing UV flux comparable to that of the Sun, we find a steady-state mass loss rate of ~2×1010 g s−1. The total mass loss rate and the outflow substructure along the substellar ray show good agreement with earlier 1D models, for two different fluxes. Our 3D data cube can be used to generate the outflow's extinction spectrum during transit. As a proof of concept, we find absorption of stellar Lyman-alpha at Doppler-shifted velocities of up to ±50 km s−1. Our work provides a starting point for further 3D models that can be used to predict observable signatures of hot Jupiter mass loss.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Outwards Exoplanet Migration in Stellar Irradiated Protoplanetary Disks

Outwards migration for planets in stellar irradiated 3D discs


Lega et al


For the very first time we present 3D simulations of planets embedded in stellar irradiated discs. It is well known that thermal effects could reverse the direction of planetary migration from inwards to outwards, potentially saving planets in the inner, optically thick parts of the protoplanetary disc. When considering stellar irradiation in addition to viscous friction as a source of heating, the outer disc changes from a shadowed to a flared structure. Using a suited analytical formula it has been shown that in the flared part of the disc the migration is inwards; planets can migrate outwards only in shadowed regions of the disc, { because the radial gradient of entropy is stronger there}. In order to confirm this result numerically, we have computed the total torque acting on planets held on fixed orbits embedded in stellar irradiated 3D discs using the hydrodynamical code FARGOCA. We find qualitatively good agreement between the total torque obtained with numerical simulations and the one predicted by the analytical formula. For large masses (greater than Earth masses) we find quantitative agreement, and we obtain outwards migration regions for planets up to 60 Earth masses in the early stages of accretional discs. We find nevertheless that the agreement with the analytic formula is quite fortuitous because the formula underestimates the size of the horseshoe region and therefore overestimates the amount of saturation of the corotation torque; this error is compensated by imperfect estimates of other terms, most likely for the cooling rate.

Evolution of Circumbinary Exoplanets Around Eccentric Binaries

Evolution of circumbinary planets around eccentric binaries: The case of Kepler-34


Kley et al

The existence of planets orbiting a central binary star system immediately raises questions regarding their formation and dynamical evolution. Recent discoveries of circumbinary planets by the Kepler space telescope has shown that some of these planets reside close to the dynamical stability limit where it is very difficult to form planets in situ. For binary systems with nearly circular orbits, such as Kepler-38, the observed proximity of planetary orbits to the stability limit can be understood by an evolutionary process in which planets form farther out in the disk and migrate inward to their observed position. The Kepler-34 system has a high orbital eccentricity of 0.52. Here, we analyse evolutionary scenarios for the planet observed around this system using two-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations.

The highly eccentric binary opens a wide inner hole in the disk which is also eccentric, and displays a slow prograde precession. As a result of the large, eccentric inner gap, an embedded planet settles in a final equilibrium position that lies beyond the observed location of Kepler-34b, but has the correct eccentricity. In this configuration the planetary orbit is aligned with the disk in a state of apsidal corotation.To account for the closer orbit of Kepler-34 b to the central binary, we considered a two-planet scenario and examined the evolution of the system through joint inward migration and capture into mean-motion resonances. When the inner planet orbits inside the gap of the disk, planet-planet scattering ensues. While often one object is thrown into a large, highly eccentric orbit, at times the system is left with a planet close to the observed orbit, suggesting that Kepler 34 might have had two circumbinary planets where one might have been scattered out of the system or into an orbit where it did not transit the central binary during the operation of Kepler.

The Global Polytropic Model Applied to Exoplanet Orbits

Gravitational quantization of exoplanet orbits in HD 10180, Kepler-32, Kepler-33, Kepler-102, and Kepler-186


Geroyannis et al


The so-called "global polytropic model" is applied to the numerical study of the exoplanet systems HD 10180, Kepler-32, Kepler-33, Kepler-102, and Kepler-186. We compare computed distances of planets from their host stars with corresponding observations and discuss some further orbit predictions made by the model.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Modeling Collisions of Planetesimals and Dust in the β Pictoris Debris Disk

A SMACK Model of Colliding Planetesimals and Dust in the β Pictoris Debris Disk: Thermal Radiation and Scattered Light


Nesvold et al


We present a new model of the β Pictoris disk-and-planet system that simulates both the planetesimal collisions and the dynamics of the resulting dust grains, allowing us to model features and asymmetries in both thermal and scattered light images of the disk. Given the observed inclination and eccentricity of the β Pictoris b planet, the model neatly ties together several features of the disk: the central hole in the submillimeter images, the two-disk "x"-pattern seen in scattered light, the "wing-tilt" asymmetry, and possibly even the clumpy gas seen by ALMA. We also find that most of the dust in the β Pictoris system is likely produced outside the ring at 60-100 AU. Instead of a birth ring, this disk has a "stirring ring" at 60-100 AU where the high-velocity collisions produced by the secular wave launched by the planet are concentrated. The two-disk x-pattern arises because collisions occur more frequently at the peaks and troughs of the secular wave. The perturbations of the disk in this region create an azimuthally and vertically asymmetric spatial distribution of collisions, which could yield an azimuthal clump of gas without invoking resonances or an additional planet.

When Protoplanetary Disks are Gravitationally Unstable, Planetesimals can Collide, Grow Larger Than 1 Meter





A long-standing problem in the collisional accretion of terrestrial planets is the possible loss of m-size bodies through their inward migration onto the protostar as a result of gas drag forces. Such inward migration can be halted, and indeed even reversed, in a protoplanetary disk with local pressure maxima, such as marginally gravitationally unstable (MGU) phases of evolution, e.g., FU Orionis events. Results are presented for a suite of three-dimensional models of MGU disks extending from 1 to 10 AU and containing solid particles with sizes of 1 cm, 10 cm, 1 m, or 10 m, subject to disk gas drag and gravitational forces. These hydrodynamical models show that over disk evolution time scales of $\sim 6\times {10}^{3}$ years or longer, during which over half the gaseous disk mass is accreted by the protostar, very few 1 and 10 m bodies are lost through inward migration: most bodies survive and orbit stably in the outer disk. A greater fraction of 1 and 10 cm particles are lost to the central protostar during these time periods, as such particles are more closely tied to the disk gas accreting onto the protostar, but even in these cases, a significant fraction survive and undergo transport from the hot inner disk to the cold outer disk, perhaps explaining the presence of small refractory particles in Comet Wild 2. Evidently MGU disk phases offer a means to overcome the m-sized migration barrier to collisional accumulation.

Asteroids and Comets may Impact White Dwarfs due to Outgassing Induced Orbital Perturbations

Sublimation-induced orbital perturbations of extrasolar active asteroids and comets: application to white dwarf systems


Veras et al


The metal budgets in some white dwarf (WD) atmospheres reveal that volatile-rich circumstellar bodies must both exist in extrasolar systems and survive the giant branch phases of stellar evolution. The resulting behaviour of these active asteroids or comets which orbit WDs is not well-understood, but may be be strongly influenced by sublimation due to stellar radiation. Here we develop a model, generally applicable to any extrasolar system with a main sequence or WD star, that traces sublimation-induced orbital element changes in approximately km-sized extrasolar minor planets and comets traveling within hundreds of au. We derive evolution equations on orbital timescales and for arbitrarily steep power-law sublimation dependencies on distance, and place our model in a Solar system context. We also demonstrate the importance of coupling sublimation and general relativity, and the orbital consequences of outgassing in arbitrary directions. We prove that nongravitational accelerations alone cannot result in orbit crossing with the WD disruption radius, but may shrink or expand the orbit by up to several au after a single pericentre passage, potentially affecting subsequent interactions with remnant debris and planets. Our analysis suggests that extant planets must exist in polluted WD systems.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Exoplanet Composition Will Greatly Impact Habitability

Connections between the bulk composition, geodynamics and habitability of Earth


Jellinek et al


The bulk composition of the silicate part of Earth has long been linked to chondritic meteorites. Ordinary chondrites — the most abundant meteorite class — are thought to represent planetary building materials. However, a landmark discovery showed that the 142Nd/144Nd ratio of the accessible parts of the modern terrestrial mantle on Earth is greater than that of ordinary chondrites. If Earth was derived from these precursors, mass balance requires that a missing reservoir with 142Nd/144Nd lower than ordinary chondrites was isolated from the accessible mantle within 20 to 30 million years of accretion. This reservoir would host the equivalent of the modern continents' budget of radioactive heat-producing elements (uranium, thorium and potassium), yet has not been discovered. We argue that this reservoir could have been lost to space by ablation from early impactors. If so, Earth's radiogenic heat generation is between 18 and 45% lower than estimates based on a chondritic composition. Calculations of Earth's thermal history that incorporate such reduced radiogenic heating are consistent with a transition to the current plate tectonic mode in the past 2.5 billion years or so, a late onset of the dynamo and an evolving rate of volcanic outgassing consistent with Earth's long-term habitable climate. Reduced heat production compared with Venus and Mars could also explain aspects of the differences between the current climatic regimes of these planets and Earth.

Impacts of Cosmic Rays on M Dwarf Habitable Zone Biomarkers

Response of Atmospheric Biomarkers to NOx-induced Photochemistry Generated by Stellar Cosmic Rays for Earth-like Planets in the Habitable Zone of M-Dwarf Stars


Grenfell et al


Understanding whether M-dwarf stars may host habitable planets with Earth-like atmospheres and biospheres is a major goal in exoplanet research. If such planets exist, the question remains as to whether they could be identified via spectral signatures of biomarkers. Such planets may be exposed to extreme intensities of cosmic rays that could perturb their atmospheric photochemistry. Here, we consider stellar activity of M-dwarfs ranging from quiet up to strong flaring conditions and investigate one particular effect upon biomarkers, namely, the ability of secondary electrons caused by stellar cosmic rays to break up atmospheric molecular nitrogen (N2), which leads to production of nitrogen oxides in the planetary atmosphere, hence affecting biomarkers such as ozone. We apply a stationary model, that is, without a time-dependence, hence we are calculating the limiting case where the atmospheric chemistry response time of the biomarkers is assumed to be slow and remains constant compared with rapid forcing by the impinging stellar flares. This point should be further explored in future work with time-dependent models. For the flaring case O3 is mainly destroyed via direct titration with nitrogen oxides and not via the familiar catalytic cycle photochemistry, which occurs on Earth. For scenarios with low O3, Rayleigh scattering by the main atmospheric gases became more important for shielding the planetary surface from ultra-violet radiation. A major result of this work is that the biomarker O3 survived all the stellar-activity scenarios considered except for the strong case, whereas the biomarker nitrous oxide could survive in the planetary atmosphere under all conditions of stellar activity considered here, which clearly has important implications for missions that aim to detect spectroscopic biomarkers.

Exomoons in the Habitable Zone may Need to be at Least .5 Earth Mass to Retain an Significant Atmosphere

Origin and Stability of Exomoon Atmospheres - Implications for Habitability


Lammer et al


We study the origin and escape of catastrophically outgassed volatiles (H2O, CO2) from exomoons with Earth-like densities and masses of 0.1M, 0.5M and 1M orbiting an extra-solar gas giant inside the habitable zone of a young active solar-like star. We apply a radiation absorption and hydrodynamic upper atmosphere model to the three studied exomoon cases. We model the escape of hydrogen and dragged dissociation products O and C during the activity saturation phase of the young host star. Because the soft X-ray and EUV radiation of the young host star may be up to ∼100 times higher compared to today's solar value during the first 100 Myr after the system's origin, an exomoon with a mass less than 0.25M located in the HZ may not be able to keep an atmosphere because of its low gravity. Depending on the spectral type and XUV activity evolution of the host star, exomoons with masses between ∼0.25−0.5M may evolve to Mars-like habitats. More massive bodies with masses greater than 0.5M, however, may evolve to habitats that are a mixture of Mars-like and Earth-analogue habitats, so that life may originate and evolve at the exomoon's surface.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lithium Evolution in Metal-poor Stars

Lithium evolution in metal-poor stars: from Pre-Main Sequence to the Spite plateau


Fu et al


Lithium abundance derived in metal-poor main sequence stars is about three times lower than the value of primordial Li predicted by the standard Big Bang nucleosynthesis when the baryon density is taken from the CMB or the deuterium measurements. This disagreement is generally referred as the lithium problem. We here reconsider the stellar Li evolution from the pre-main sequence to the end of the main sequence phase by introducing the effects of convective overshooting and residual mass accretion. We show that 7Li could be significantly depleted by convective overshooting in the pre-main sequence phase and then partially restored in the stellar atmosphere by a tail of matter accretion which follows the Li depletion phase and that could be regulated by EUV photo-evaporation. By considering the conventional nuclear burning and microscopic diffusion along the main sequence we can reproduce the Spite plateau for stars with initial mass m0=0.62−0.80M⊙, and the Li declining branch for lower mass dwarfs, e.g, m0=0.57−0.60M⊙, for a wide range of metallicities (Z=0.00001 to Z=0.0005), starting from an initial Li abundance A(Li)=2.72. This environmental Li evolution model also offers the possibility to interpret the decrease of Li abundance in extremely metal-poor stars, the Li disparities in spectroscopic binaries and the low Li abundance in planet hosting stars.

The jet and Disk of Protostar HH 212 is VERY Sulfur Enriched

The jet and the disk of the HH 212 low-mass protostar imaged by ALMA: SO and SO2 emission


Podio et al


To investigate the disk formation and jet launch in protostars is crucial to comprehend the earliest stages of star and planet formation. We aim to constrain the properties of the molecular jet and the disk of the HH 212 protostellar system at unprecedented angular scales through ALMA observations of sulfur-bearing molecules, SO 9(8)-8(7), SO 10(11)-10(10), SO2 8(2,6)-7(1,7). SO 9(8)-8(7) and SO2 8(2,6)-7(1,7) show broad velocity profiles. At systemic velocity they probe the circumstellar gas and the cavity walls. Going from low to high blue-/red-shifted velocities the emission traces the wide-angle outflow and the fast (~100-200 km/s) and collimated (~90 AU) molecular jet revealing the inner knots with timescales less than 50 years. The jet transports a mass loss rate greater than 0.2-2e-6 Msun/yr, implying high ejection efficiency ( greater than 0.03-0.3). The SO and SO2 abundances in the jet are ~1e-7-1e-6. SO 10(11)-10(10) emission is compact and shows small-scale velocity gradients indicating that it originates partly from the rotating disk previously seen in HCO+ and C17O, and partly from the base of the jet. The disk mass is greater than 0.002-0.013 Msun, and the SO abundance in the disk is ~1e-8-1e-7. SO and SO2 are effective tracers of the molecular jet in the inner few hundreds AU from the protostar. Their abundances indicate that 1% - 40% of sulfur is in SO and SO2 due to shocks in the jet/outflow and/or to ambipolar diffusion at the wind base. The SO abundance in the disk is 3-4 orders of magnitude larger than in evolved protoplanetary disks. This may be due to an SO enhancement in the accretion shock at the envelope-disk interface or in spiral shocks if the disk is partly gravitationally unstable.

HNC in Protoplanetary Disks

HNC in Protoplanetary Disks


Graninger et al


The distributions and abundances of small organics in protoplanetary disks are potentially powerful probes of disk physics and chemistry. HNC is a common probe of dense interstellar regions and the target of this study. We use the Submillimeter Array (SMA) to observe HNC 3--2 towards the protoplanetary disks around the T Tauri star TW Hya and the Herbig Ae star HD 163296. HNC is detected toward both disks, constituting the first spatially resolved observations of HNC in disks. We also present SMA observations of HCN 3--2, and IRAM 30m observations of HCN and HNC 1--0 toward HD 163296. The disk-averaged HNC/HCN emission ratio is 0.1--0.2 toward both disks. Toward TW Hya, the HNC emission is confined to a ring. The varying HNC abundance in the TW Hya disk demonstrates that HNC chemistry is strongly linked to the disk physical structure. In particular, the inner rim of the HNC ring can be explained by efficient destruction of HNC at elevated temperatures, similar to what is observed in the ISM. To realize the full potential of HNC as a disk tracer requires, however, a combination of high SNR spatially resolved observations of HNC and HCN, and disk specific HNC chemical modeling.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rapid Dissipation of Protoplanetary Disks in Ophiuchus

Rapid Dissipation of Protoplanetary Disks in Ophiuchus


Takagi et al


We present the results of an age determination study for pre-main sequence stars in the Ophiuchus molecular cloud. The ages of eight pre-main sequence stars were estimated from surface gravities derived from high-resolution spectroscopy. The average age of the target stars was 0.7 Myr. By comparing the individual age and the near-infrared color excess, we found that color excess decreases gradually with a constant rate and the lifetime of the inner disk was determined to be 1.2 Myr. The estimated lifetime is nearly a half of the time compared to that of the pre-main sequence stars in the Taurus molecular cloud estimated with the same method. This result indicates that the disk evolution timescale depends on the environment of the star-forming region.

The Largest Protoplanetary Disk in the Orion Nebula

ALMA Observations of the Largest Proto-Planetary Disk in the Orion Nebula, 114-426: A CO Silhouette


Bally et al


We present ALMA observations of the largest protoplanetary disk in the Orion Nebula, 114-426. Detectable 345 GHz (856 micron) dust continuum is produced only in the 350 AU central region of the ~1000 AU diameter silhouette seen against the bright H-alpha background in HST images. Assuming optically thin dust emission at 345 GHz, a gas-to-dust ratio of 100, and a grain temperature of 20 K, the disk gas-mass is estimated to be 3.1 +/- 0.6 Jupiter masses. If most solids and ices have have been incorporated into large grains, however, this value is a lower limit. The disk is not detected in dense-gas tracers such as HCO+ J=4-3, HCN J=4-3, or CS =7-6. These results may indicate that the 114-426 disk is evolved and depleted in some light organic compounds found in molecular clouds. The CO J=3-2 line is seen in absorption against the bright 50 to 80 K background of the Orion A molecular cloud over the full spatial extent and a little beyond the dust continuum emission. The CO absorption reaches a depth of 27 K below the background CO emission at VLSR ~6.7 km/s about 0.52 arcseconds (210 AU) northeast and 12 K below the background CO emission at VLSR ~ 9.7 km/s about 0.34 arcseconds (140 AU) southwest of the suspected location of the central star, implying that the embedded star has a mass less than 1 Solar mass .

Volatile Depletion in the TW Hydrae Disk

Volatile depletion in the TW Hydrae disk atmosphere


Du et al


An abundance decrease in carbon- and oxygen-bearing species relative to dust has been frequently found in planet-forming disks, which can be attributed to an overall reduction of gas mass. However, in the case of TW Hya, the only disk with gas mass measured directly with HD rotational lines, the inferred gas mass (≲0.005 solar mass) is significantly below the directly measured value (≳0.05 solar mass). We show that this apparent conflict can be resolved if the elemental abundances of carbon and oxygen are reduced in the upper layers of the outer disk but are normal elsewhere (except for a possible enhancement of their abundances in the inner disk). The implication is that in the outer disk, the main reservoir of the volatiles (CO, water, ...) resides close to the midplane, locked up inside solid bodies that are too heavy to be transported back to the atmosphere by turbulence. An enhancement in the carbon and oxygen abundances in the inner disk can be caused by inward migration of these solid bodies. This is consistent with estimates based on previous models of dust grain dynamics. Indirect measurements of the disk gas mass and disk structure from species such as CO will thus be intertwined with the evolution of dust grains, and possibly also with the formation of planetesimals.

Friday, July 17, 2015

1RXS 1609B: a Brown Dwarf Orbiting its Parent Star at 350 AU and has an Inclined Dusty Circum Brown Dwarf Disk

New Extinction and Mass Estimates of the Low-mass Companion 1RXS 1609 B with the Magellan AO System: Evidence of an Inclined Dust Disk


Wu et al


We used the Magellan adaptive optics system to image the 11 Myr substellar companion 1RXS 1609 B at the bluest wavelengths to date (z' and Ys). Comparison with synthetic spectra yields a higher temperature than previous studies of Teff=2000±100K and significant dust extinction of AV=4.5+0.5−0.7 mag. Mass estimates based on the DUSTY tracks gives 0.012-0.015 Msun, making the companion likely a low-mass brown dwarf surrounded by a dusty disk. Our study suggests that 1RXS 1609 B is one of the 25% of Upper Scorpius low-mass members harboring disks, and it may have formed like a star and not a planet out at 320 AU.

Are M Dwarfs Really a Bridge Between Brown Dwarfs and Other Stellar Types?

M-dwarf binaries as tracers of star and brown dwarf formation


Marks et al


The separation distribution for M-dwarf binaries in the ASTRALUX survey is narrower and peaking at smaller separations than the distribution for solar-type binaries. This is often interpreted to mean that M-dwarfs constitute a continuous transition from brown dwarfs (BDs) to stars. Here a prediction for the M-dwarf separation distribution is presented, using a dynamical population synthesis (DPS) model in which "star-like" binaries with late-type primaries (≲1.5Msun) follow universal initial distribution functions and are dynamically processed in their birth embedded clusters. A separate "BD-like" population has both its own distribution functions for binaries and initial mass function (IMF), which overlaps in mass with the IMF for stars. Combining these two formation modes results in a peak on top of a wider separation distribution for late M-dwarfs consistent with the late ASTRALUX sample. The DPS separation distribution for early M-dwarfs shows no such peak and is in agreement with the M-dwarfs in Multiples (MinMS) data. We note that the latter survey is potentially in tension with the early ASTRALUX data. Concluding, the ASTRALUX and MinMS data are unable to unambiguously distinguish whether or not BDs are a continuous extension of the stellar IMF. Future observational efforts are needed to fully answer this interesting question. The DPS model predicts that binaries outside the sensitivity range of the ASTRALUX survey remain to be detected. For application to future data, we present a means to observationally measure the overlap of the putative BD-like branch and the stellar branch. We discuss the meaning of universal star formation and distribution functions.

The V471 Tauri System: a White Dwarf- Red Dwarf Eclipsing Binary With a Brown Dwarf at 12 AU

The V471 Tauri System: A Multi-datatype Probe


Vaccaro et al


V471 Tauri, a white dwarf--red dwarf eclipsing binary in the Hyades, is well known for stimulating development of common envelope theory, whereby novae and other cataclysmic variables form from much wider binaries by catastrophic orbit shrinkage. Our evaluation of a recent imaging search that reported negative results for a much postulated third body shows that the object could have escaped detection or may have actually been seen. The balance of evidence continues to favor a brown dwarf companion about 12 AU from the eclipsing binary. A recently developed algorithm finds unified solutions from three datatypes. New radial velocities (RVs) of the red dwarf and BV RCIC light curves are solved simultaneously along with white dwarf and red dwarf RVs from the literature, uvby data, the MOST mission light curve, and 40 years of eclipse timings. Precision-based weighting is the key to proper information balance among the various datasets. Timewise variation of modeled starspots allows unified solution of multiple data eras. Light curve amplitudes strongly suggest decreasing spottedness from 1976 to about 1980, followed by approximately constant spot coverage from 1981 to 2005. An explanation is proposed for lack of noticeable variation in 1981 light curves, in terms of competition between spot and tidal variations. Photometric spectroscopic distance is estimated. The red dwarf mass comes out larger than normal for a K2V star, and even larger than adopted in several structure and evolution papers. An identified cause for this result is that much improved red dwarf RVs curves now exist.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Transmission Spectrum of Inflated hot Saturn HAT-P-19b

Transmission spectroscopy of the inflated exo-Saturn HAT-P-19b


Mallonn et al


We observed the Saturn-mass and Jupiter-sized exoplanet HAT-P-19b to refine its transit parameters and ephemeris as well as to shed first light on its transmission spectrum. We monitored the host star over one year to quantify its flux variability and to correct the transmission spectrum for a slope caused by starspots. A transit of HAT-P-19b was observed spectroscopically with OSIRIS at the Gran Telescopio Canarias in January 2012. The spectra of the target and the comparison star covered the wavelength range from 5600 to 7600 AA. One high-precision differential light curve was created by integrating the entire spectral flux. This white-light curve was used to derive absolute transit parameters. Furthermore, a set of light curves over wavelength was formed by a flux integration in 41 wavelength channels of 50 AA width. We analyzed these spectral light curves for chromatic variations of transit depth. The transit fit of the combined white-light curve yields a refined value of the planet-to-star radius ratio of 0.1390 pm 0.0012 and an inclination of 88.89 pm 0.32 degrees. After a re-analysis of published data, we refine the orbital period to 4.0087844 pm 0.0000015 days. We obtain a flat transmission spectrum without significant additional absorption at any wavelength or any slope. However, our accuracy is not sufficient to significantly rule out the presence of a pressure-broadened sodium feature. Our photometric monitoring campaign allowed for an estimate of the stellar rotation period of 35.5 pm 2.5 days and an improved age estimate of 5.5^+1.8_-1.3 Gyr by gyrochronology.

Could a hot Jupiter Bleed out its Atmosphere to Necome a hot Mini Neptune?

Tidally-driven Roche-Lobe Overflow of Hot Jupiters with MESA


Valsecchi et al


Many exoplanets have now been detected in orbits with ultra-short periods, very close to the Roche limit. Building upon our previous work, we study the possibility that mass loss through Roche lobe overflow (RLO) may affect the evolution of these planets, and could possibly transform a hot Jupiter into a lower-mass planet (hot Neptune or super-Earth). We focus here on systems in which the mass loss occurs slowly ("stable mass transfer" in the language of binary star evolution) and we compute their evolution in detail with the binary evolution code MESA. We include the effects of tides, RLO, irradiation and photo-evaporation of the planet, as well as the stellar wind and magnetic braking. Our calculations all start with a hot Jupiter close to its Roche limit, in orbit around a sun-like star. The initial orbital decay and onset of RLO are driven by tidal dissipation in the star. We confirm that such a system can indeed evolve to produce lower-mass planets in orbits of a few days. The RLO phase eventually ends and, depending on the details of the mass transfer and on the planetary core mass, the orbital period can remain around a few days for several Gyr. The remnant planets have a rocky core and some amount of envelope material, which is slowly removed via photo-evaporation at nearly constant orbital period; these have properties resembling many of the observed super-Earths and sub-Neptunes. For these remnant planets we also predict an anti-correlation between mass and orbital period; very low-mass planets (Mpl≲5M) in ultra-short periods (Porb less than 1d) cannot be produced through this type of evolution.

Atmospheric Expansion and Loss by hot Jupiters

Atmosphere expansion and mass loss of close-orbit giant exoplanets heated by stellar XUV: I. Modeling of hydrodynamic escape of upper atmospheric material


Shaikhislamov et al


In the present series of papers we propose a consistent description of the mass loss process. To study the effects of intrinsic magnetic field of a close-orbit giant exoplanet (so-called Hot Jupiter) on the atmospheric material escape and formation of planetary inner magnetosphere in a comprehensive way, we start with a hydrodynamic model of an upper atmosphere expansion presented in this paper. While considering a simple hydrogen atmosphere model, we focus on selfconsistent inclusion of the effects of radiative heating and ionization of the atmospheric gas with its consequent expansion in the outer space. Primary attention is paid to investigation of the role of specific conditions at the inner and outer boundaries of the simulation domain, under which different regimes of material escape (free- and restricted- flow) are formed. Comparative study of different processes, such as XUV heating, material ionization and recombination, H3+ cooling, adiabatic and Lyman-alpha cooling, Lyman-alpha reabsorption is performed. We confirm basic consistence of the outcomes of our modeling with the results of other hydrodynamic models of expanding planetary atmospheres. In particular, we obtain that under the typical conditions of an orbital distance 0.05 AU around a Sun-type star a Hot Jupiter plasma envelope may reach maximum temperatures up to ~9000K with a hydrodynamic escape speed ~9 km/s resulting in the mass loss rates ~(4-7)*10^10 g*s . In the range of considered stellar-planetary parameters and XUV fluxes that is close to mass loss in the energy limited case. The inclusion of planetary intrinsic magnetic fields in the model is a subject of the following up paper

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

HIP 11915b: Another Jupiter Analog Found Around Sol Twin

So far, exoplanet surveys have been most sensitive to planetary systems that are populated in their inner regions by massive planets, down to a few times the mass of the Earth [1]. This contrasts with our Solar System, where there are small rocky planets in the inner regions and gas giants like Jupiter farther out.

According to the most recent theories, the arrangement of our Solar System, so conducive to life, was made possible by the presence of Jupiter and the gravitational influence this gas giant exerted on the Solar System during its formative years. It would seem, therefore, that finding a Jupiter twin is an important milestone on the road to finding a planetary system that mirrors our own.

A Brazilian-led team has been targeting Sun-like stars in a bid to find planetary systems similar to our Solar System. The team has now uncovered a planet with a very similar mass to Jupiter [2], orbiting a Sun-like star, HIP 11915, at almost exactly the same distance as Jupiter. The new discovery was made using HARPS, one of the world's most precise planet-hunting instruments, mounted on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Although many planets similar to Jupiter have been found [3] at a variety of distances from Sun-like stars, this newly discovered planet, in terms of both mass and distance from its host star, and in terms of the similarity between the host star and our Sun, is the most accurate analogue yet found for the Sun and Jupiter.

The planet's host, the solar twin HIP 11915, is not only similar inmass to the Sun, but is also about the same age. To further strengthen the similarities, the composition of the star is similar to the Sun's. The chemical signature of our Sun may be partly marked by the presence of rocky planets in the Solar System, hinting at the possibility of rocky planets also around HIP 11915.

Looking for a Second Star for Exoplanetary Systems

A Lucky Imaging search for stellar sources near 74 transit hosts


Wöllert et al


Many transiting planet host stars lack high resolution imaging and thus close stellar sources can be missed. Those unknown stars potentially bias the derivation of the planetary and stellar parameters from the transit light curve, no matter if they are bound or not. In addition, bound stellar companions interact gravitationally with the exoplanet host star, the disk and the planets and can thus influence the formation and evolution of the planetary system strongly. We extended our high-resolution Lucky Imaging survey for close stellar sources by 74 transiting planet host stars. 39 of these stars lack previous high-resolution imaging, 23 are follow up observations of companions or companion candidates, and the remaining stars have been observed by others with AO imaging though in different bands. We determine the separation of all new and known companion candidates and estimate the flux ratio in the observed bands. All observations were carried out with the Lucky Imaging camera AstraLux Norte at the Calar Alto 2.2 m telescope in i' and z' passbands. We find new stellar sources within 1 arcsec to HAT-P-27, HAT-P-28, HAT-P-35, WASP-76, and WASP-103, and between 1 and 4 arcsec to HAT-P-29 and WASP-56.

The Differences in Protoplanetary Disk Evolution Around Single and Binary Stars

Protoplanetary Disk Evolution: Singles vs. Binaries


Daemgen et al


Based on a large number of observations carried out in the last decade it appears that the fraction of stars with protoplanetary disks declines steadily between ~1 Myr and ~10 Myr. We do, however, know that the multiplicity fraction of star-forming regions can be as high as greater than 50% and that multiples have reduced disk lifetimes on average. As a consequence, the observed roughly exponential disk decay can neither be fully attributed to single nor binary stars and its functional form may need revision. Observational evidence for the latter has been provided by Kraus et al. (2012), who statistically correct previous disk frequency measurements for the presence of binaries and find agreement with models that feature a constantly high disk fraction up to ~3 Myr, followed by a rapid (≲2 Myr) decline. We present results from our high-angular resolution observational program to study the fraction of protoplanetary disks of single and binary stars separately. We find that disk evolution timescales of stars bound in close binaries (less than 100 AU) are significantly reduced compared to wider binaries. The frequencies of accretors among single stars and wide binaries appear indistinguishable, and are found lower than predicted from planet forming disk models governed by viscous evolution and photoevaporation.

The Potential for Observing Structures in Circumbinary Disks

Structures in circumbinary disks: Prospects for observability


Ruge et al


During the past decade circumbinary disks have been discovered around various young binary stars. Hydrodynamical calculations indicate that the gravitational interaction between the central binary star and the surrounding disk results in global perturbations of the disk density profile. We study the observability of characteristic large-scale disk structures resulting from the binary-disk interaction in the case of close binary systems. We derived the structure of circumbinary disks from smoothed-particle hydrodynamic simulations. Subsequently, we performed radiative transfer simulations to obtain scattered light and thermal reemission maps. We investigated the influence of the binary mass ratio, the inclination of the binary orbit relative to the disk midplane, and the eccentricity of the binary orbit on observational quantities. We find that ALMA will allow tracing asymmetries of the inner edge of the disk and potentially resolving spiral arms if the disk is seen face-on. For an edge-on orientation, ALMA will allow detecting perturbations in the disk density distribution through asymmetries in the radial brightness profile. Through the asymmetric structure of the disks, areas are formed with a temperature 2.6 times higher than at the same location in equivalent unperturbed disks. The time-dependent appearance of the density waves and spiral arms in the disk affects the total re-emission flux of the object by a few percent.