Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Efficient Geometric Probabilities of Multi-Transiting Exoplanetary Systems from CORBITS


Brakensiek et al


NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has successfully discovered thousands of exoplanet candidates using the transit method, including hundreds of stars with multiple transiting planets. In order to estimate the frequency of these valuable systems, it is essential to account for the unique geometric probabilities of detecting multiple transiting extrasolar planets around the same parent star. In order to improve on previous studies that used numerical methods, we have constructed an efficient, semi-analytical algorithm called CORBITS which, given a collection of conjectured exoplanets orbiting a star, computes the probability that any particular group of exoplanets can be observed to transit. The algorithm applies theorems of elementary differential geometry to compute the areas bounded by circular curves on the surface of a sphere (see Ragozzine & Holman 2010). The implemented algorithm is more accurate and orders of magnitude faster than previous algorithms, based on comparisons with Monte Carlo simulations. We use CORBITS to show that the present solar system would only show a maximum of 3 transiting planets, but that this varies over time due to dynamical evolution. We also used CORBITS to geometrically debias the period ratio and mutual Hill sphere distributions of Kepler's multi-transiting planet candidates, which results in shifting these distributions towards slightly larger values. In an Appendix, we present additional semi-analytical methods for determining the frequency of exoplanet mutual events, i.e., the geometric probability that two planets will transit each other (Planet-Planet Occultation, relevant to transiting circumbinary planets) and the probability that this transit occurs simultaneously as they transit their star. The CORBITS algorithms and several worked examples are publicly available at this https URL.

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