Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Observational biases for transiting planets


Kipping et al


Observational biases distort our view of nature, such that the patterns we see within a surveyed population of interest are often unrepresentative of the truth we seek. Transiting planets currently represent the most informative data set on the ensemble properties of exoplanets within 1 AU of their star. However, the transit method is inherently biased due to both geometric and detection-driven effects. In this work, we derive the overall observational biases affecting the most basic transit parameters from first principles. By assuming a trapezoidal transit and using conditional probability, we infer the expected distribution of these terms both as a joint distribution and in a marginalized form. These general analytic results provide a baseline against which to compare trends predicted by mission-tailored injection/recovery simulations and offer a simple way to correct for observational bias. Our results explain why the observed population of transiting planets displays a non-uniform impact parameter distribution, with a bias towards near-equatorial geometries. We also find that the geometric bias towards observed planets transiting near periastron is attenuated by the longer durations which occur near apoastron. Finally, we predict that the observational bias with respect to ratio-of-radii is super-quadratic, scaling as (RP/R⋆)5/2, driven by an enhanced geometric transit probability and modestly longer durations.

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