Sunday, September 27, 2015

Determining Exoplanet Masses and Radii in Multiplanetary Systems Without Stellar Models

Absolute masses and radii determination in multiplanetary systems without stellar models


Almenara et al


The masses and radii of extrasolar planets are key observables for understanding their interior, formation and evolution. While transit photometry and Doppler spectroscopy are used to measure the radii and masses respectively of planets relative to those of their host star, estimates for the true values of these quantities rely on theoretical models of the host star which are known to suffer from systematic differences with observations. When a system is composed of more than two bodies, extra information is contained in the transit photometry and radial velocity data. Velocity information (finite speed-of-light, Doppler) is needed to break the Newtonian MR−3 degeneracy. We performed a photodynamical modelling of the two-planet transiting system Kepler-117 using all photometric and spectroscopic data available. We demonstrate how absolute masses and radii of single-star planetary systems can be obtained without resorting to stellar models. Limited by the precision of available radial velocities (38 ms−1), we achieve accuracies of 20 per cent in the radii and 70 per cent in the masses, while simulated 1 ms−1 precision radial velocities lower these to 1 per cent for the radii and 2 per cent for the masses. Since transiting multi-planet systems are common, this technique can be used to measure precisely the mass and radius of a large sample of stars and planets. We anticipate these measurements will become common when the TESS and PLATO mission provide high-precision light curves of a large sample of bright stars. These determinations will improve our knowledge about stars and planets, and provide strong constraints on theoretical models.

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