Sunday, February 15, 2015

Using Venus' Solar Transit to Study Exoplanetary Transits

A new view on exoplanet transits: Transit of Venus described using three-dimensional solar atmosphere Stagger-grid simulations


Chiavassa et al


Stellar activity and, in particular, convection-related surface structures, potentially cause fluctuations that can affect the transit light curves. Surface convection simulations can help the interpretation of ToV. We used realistic three-dimensional radiative hydrodynamical simulation of the Sun from the Stagger-grid and synthetic images computed with the radiative transfer code Optim3D to provide predictions for the transit of Venus in 2004 observed by the satellite ACRIMSAT. We computed intensity maps from RHD simulation of the Sun and produced synthetic stellar disk image. We computed the light curve and compared it to the ACRIMSAT observations and also to the light curves obtained with solar surface representations carried out using radial profiles with different limb-darkening laws. We also applied the same spherical tile imaging method to the observations of center-to-limb Sun granulation with HINODE. We managed to explain ACRIMSAT observations of 2004 ToV and showed that the granulation pattern causes fluctuations in the transit light curve. We evaluated the contribution of the granulation to the ToV. We showed that the granulation pattern can partially explain the observed discrepancies between models and data. This confirms that the limb-darkening and the granulation pattern simulated in 3D RHD Sun represent well what is imaged by HINODE. In the end, we found that the Venus's aureole contribution during ToV is less intense than the solar photosphere, and thus negligible. Being able to explain consistently the data of 2004 ToV is a new step forward for 3D RHD simulations that are becoming essential for the detection and characterization of exoplanets. They show that the granulation have to be considered as an intrinsic incertitude, due to the stellar variability, on precise measurements of exoplanet transits of, most likely, planets with small diameters.

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