Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Kepler-421b may be Alone in its System


Dalba et al


We observed Kepler-421 during the anticipated third transit of the snow-line exoplanet Kepler-421b in order to constrain the existence and extent of transit timing variations (TTVs). Previously, the Kepler Spacecraft only observed two transits of Kepler-421b leaving the planet's transit ephemeris unconstrained. Our visible light, time-series observations from the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope were designed to capture pre-transit baseline and the partial transit of Kepler-421b barring significant TTVs. We use the light curves to assess the probabilities of various transit models using both the posterior odds ratio and the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) and find that a transit model with no TTVs is favored to 3.6-sigma confidence. These observations suggest that Kepler-421b is either alone in its system or is only experiencing minor dynamic interactions with an unseen companion. With the Kepler-421b ephemeris constrained, we calculate future transit times and discuss the opportunity to characterize the atmosphere of this cold, long-period exoplanet via transmission spectroscopy. Our investigation emphasizes the difficulties associated with observing long-period exoplanet transits and the consequences that arise from failing to refine transit ephemerides.

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