Thursday, September 29, 2016

EPIC 211351816.01: A (Re-?)Inflated Planet Orbiting a Red Giant Star


Grunblatt et al


Giant planets with high incident fluxes have been observed with radii larger than thermal evolution models would allow. Although these inflated planets have been known for almost two decades, it is unclear whether their inflation is caused by deposition of energy from the host star, or inhibited cooling of the planet. These processes can be distinguished if the planet becomes highly irradiated only when the host star evolves onto the red giant branch. We report the discovery of EPIC 211351816.01, a 1.27 +/- 0.09 RJ, 1.10 +/- 0.11 MJ planet orbiting a 4.20 +/- 0.14 Rsun, 1.16 +/- 0.12 Msun red giant star with an orbital period of 8.4 days. We precisely constrained stellar and planetary parameters by combining asteroseismology, spectroscopy, and granulation noise modeling along with transit and radial velocity measurements. Our calculations suggest the incident flux on this planet was ~200 +/- 100 times the flux on Earth while the star was on the main sequence, comparable to the suggested threshold flux for planet inflation. This suggests the planet was significantly less inflated in the past, and its current measured planet radius is inconsistent with delayed cooling since formation. Thus, this system provides the first clear evidence that planets are inflated directly from a process dependent on the incident stellar radiation rather than by delayed loss of heat from formation. Further studies of planets around red giant branch stars will confirm or contradict this inflation hypothesis, and may reveal a new class of re-inflated planets.

final paper with the exoplanet renamed K2-97b.

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