Monday, December 21, 2015

How Common are Small Exoplanets Around Kepler Stars?

Detailed Abundances of Stars with Small Planets Discovered by Kepler I: The First Sample


Schuler et al


We present newly derived stellar parameters and the detailed abundances of 19 elements of seven stars with small planets discovered by NASA's Kepler Mission. Each star save one has at least one planet with a radius less than or equal to 1.6 R_Earth, suggesting a primarily rocky composition. The stellar parameters and abundances are derived from high signal-to-noise ratio, high-resolution echelle spectroscopy obtained with the 10-m Keck I telescope and HIRES spectrometer using standard spectroscopic techniques. The metallicities of the seven stars range from -0.32 dex to +0.13 dex, with an average metallicity that is subsolar, supporting previous suggestions that, unlike Jupiter-type giant planets, small planets do not form preferentially around metal-rich stars. The abundances of elements other than iron are in line with a population of Galactic disk stars, and despite our modest sample size, we find hints that the compositions of stars with small planets are similar to stars without known planets and with Neptune-size planets, but not to those of stars with giant planets. This suggests that the formation of small planets does not require exceptional host-star compositions and that small planets may be ubiquitous in the Galaxy. We compare our derived abundances (which have typical uncertainties of less than or equal 0.04 dex) to the condensation temperature of the elements; a correlation between the two has been suggested as a possible signature of rocky planet formation. None of the stars demonstrate the putative rocky planet signature, despite at least three of the stars having rocky planets estimated to contain enough refractory material to produce the signature, if real. More detailed abundance analyses of stars known to host small planets are needed to verify our results and place ever more stringent constraints on planet formation models.

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