Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rocky SuperEarths are Special? Like Earth? or Not?

Probabilistic Forecasting of the Masses and Radii of Other Worlds


Chen et al


Mass and radius are two of the most fundamental properties of an astronomical object. Increasingly, new planet discoveries are being announced with a measurement of one of these terms, but not both. This has led to a growing need to forecast the missing quantity using the other, especially when predicting the detectability of certain follow-up observations. We present a forecasting model built upon a probabilistic mass-radius relation conditioned on a sample of 316 objects with well-constrained masses and radii. Our publicly available code, Forecaster, accounts for measurement error, model uncertainty and the intrinsic dispersion observed in the calibration sample. By conditioning our model upon a sample spanning dwarf planets to late-type stars, Forecaster can predict the mass (or radius) from the radius (or mass) for objects covering nine orders-of-magnitude in mass. Classification is naturally performed by our model, which uses four classes we label as Terran worlds, Neptunian worlds, Jovian worlds and stars. Our classification identifies dwarf planets as merely low-mass Terrans (like the Earth), and brown dwarfs as merely high-mass Jovians (like Jupiter). We detect a transition in the mass-radius relation at (2.0±0.7)M⊕, which we associate with the divide between solid, Terran worlds and Neptunian worlds. This independent analysis adds further weight to the emerging consensus that rocky Super-Earths represent a narrower region of parameter space than originally thought. Effectively, then, the Earth is the Super-Earth we have been looking for.

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