Friday, July 21, 2017

NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 Finds Brown Dwarf WISEA J110125.95+540052.8.

One night three months ago, Rosa Castro finished her dinner, opened her laptop, and uncovered a novel object that was neither planet nor star. Therapist by day and amateur astronomer by night, Castro joined the NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project when it began in February -- not knowing she would become one of four volunteers to help identify the project's first brown dwarf, formally known as WISEA J110125.95+540052.8.

link.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Can Dark Matter Form Planets?

Dark stars may not just be for Grateful Dead fans anymore.

In a new paper uploaded to arXiv, Rutgers University astrophysics professor Matthew R. Buckley puts forth a truly wild hypothesis: It might be possible to build worlds out of dark matter.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Trappist-1h MIGHT Have Once Been Habitable

A University of Washington-led international team of astronomers has used data gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope to observe and confirm details of the outermost of seven exoplanets or-biting the star TRAPPIST-1.

They confirmed that the planet, TRAPPIST-1h, orbits its star every 18.77 days, is linked in its orbital path to its siblings and is frigidly cold. Far from its host star, the planet is likely uninhabit-able -- but it may not always have been so.


Monday, July 10, 2017

If Humanity will Reach the Nearest Stars in the Next Century, Where are the Aliens?

Relativistic Generalization of the Incentive Trap of Interstellar Travel with Application to Breakthrough Starshot

Author:


Heller

Abstract:
As new concepts of sending interstellar spacecraft to the nearest stars are now being investigated by various research teams, crucial questions about the timing of such a vast financial and labor investment arise. If humanity could build high-speed interstellar lightsails and reach α Centauri 20 yr after launch, would it be better to wait a few years, then take advantage of further technology improvements and arrive earlier despite waiting? The risk of being overtaken by a future, faster probe has been described earlier as the incentive trap. Based on 211 yr of historical data, we find that the speed growth of artificial vehicles, from steam-driven locomotives to Voyager 1, is much faster than previously believed, about 4.72 % annually or a doubling every 15 yr. We derive the mathematical framework to calculate the minimum of the wait time to launch t plus travel time τ(t) and extend it into the relativistic regime. We show that the t + τ(t) minimum disappears for nearby targets. There is no use of waiting once we can reach an object within about 20 yr of travel, irrespective of the actual speed. In terms of speed, the t + τ(t) minimum for a travel to α Centauri occurs at 19.6 % the speed of light (c), in agreement with the 20 % c proposed by the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. If interstellar travel at 20 % c could be achieved within 45 yr from today and the kinetic energy be increased at a rate consistent with the historical record, then humans can reach the ten most nearby stars within 100 yr from today.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Does Proxima b have a Sister World?

Proxima Centauri b may not be alone out there.

The 2016 announcement of Proxima Centauri b was a watershed moment in exoplanet research. Not only had researchers found a potentially habitable Earth-mass planet, but it was at the nearest star to Earth. This means it could be one of the easiest systems to study using future telescopes.

But researchers are now looking into some promising signals suggesting there are more planets lurking in the system.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Could Exoplanets Around Neutron Stars be Habitable?

Neutron Star Planets: Atmospheric processes and habitability

Authors:


Patruno et al

Abstract: 
Of the roughly 3000 neutron stars known, only a handful have sub-stellar companions. The most famous of these are the low-mass planets around the millisecond pulsar B1257+12. New evidence indicates that observational biases could still hide a wide variety of planetary systems around most neutron stars. We consider the environment and physical processes relevant to neutron star planets, in particular the effect of X-ray irradiation and the relativistic pulsar wind on the planetary atmosphere. We discuss the survival time of planet atmospheres and the planetary surface conditions around different classes of neutron stars, and define a neutron star habitable zone. Depending on as-yet poorly constrained aspects of the pulsar wind, both Super-Earths around B1257+12 could lie within its habitable zone.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dr Jill Tartar Gets Profiled on Nature

As a child in the 1950s, Jill Tarter would gaze at the stars and wonder, “Are we alone?” That monumental question has driven the astronomer's lifelong quest to find alien life in the Milky Way.



I've met Jill. She has a brilliant mind and is a wonderful woman.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Systematic Discusses Machine Learning & Detecting Hot Jupiters

There’s no denying the fundamentally alien climates on the hot Jupiters. It’s not clear, however, how hot Jupiters form, and it’s not clear why so many of them are badly distended. Moreover, it’s only vaguely clear what the weather patterns on one would look like up close. (One thing that is clear is that the flights would all be canceled).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Planetary Society on WFIRST's Planned Coronograph

I have previously written about WFIRST (Summer 2015 Planetary Report). This NASA mission, planned to launch into space in the mid-2020s will have a coronagraph at least 1,000 times more powerful than any existing coronagraph. The power of a coronagraph is measured by the 'contrast ratio'—the ratio of the brightness of the central star to the brightness of the planet being studied. Current coronagraphs have a contrast ratio of about 100,000-1 million, which means that astronomers can see objects that are 100,000-1 million times dimmer (less bright) than the central star. WFIRST is being designed to achieve a contrast ratio of one billion to one! The primary difficulty in designing any coronagraph is in blocking all of the starlight. Once light has entered the telescope, it is extremely difficult to block it all with a coronagraph, partly due to a process called 'diffraction.' This is a process in which light is bent around corners or is scattered at the edges of objects. An analogy would be when you close the curtains, but there is a little gap and the light spreads as it passes through the small gap. In a telescope, this scattered light sometimes finds its way to the camera recording the telescope observations. So, achieving a contrast ratio of one billion to one requires us to keep that scattered light level very, very low.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kepler Finds 219 New Exoplanets

This is the most comprehensive and detailed catalog release of candidate exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, from Kepler's first four years of data. It's also the final catalog from the spacecraft's view of the patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation.

NASA's Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

With the release of this catalog, derived from data publically available on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, there are now 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified.


Monday, June 26, 2017

The SETI Decrypt Challenge

Decryption of Messages from Extraterrestrial Intelligence Using the Power of Social Media - The SETI Decrypt Challenge

Authors:


Heller et al

Abstract:
With the advent of modern astronomy, humans might now have acquired the technological and intellectual requirements to communicate with other intelligent beings beyond the solar system, if they exist. Radio signals have been identified as a means for interstellar communication about 60 years ago. And the Square Kilometer Array will be capable of detecting extrasolar radio sources analogous to terrestrial high-power radars out to several tens of light years. The ultimate question is: will we be able to understand the message, or, vice versa, if we submit a message to extraterrestrial intelligence first, how can we make sure that they understand us? Here I report on the largest blind experiment of a pretend radio message received on Earth from beyond the solar system. I posted a sequence of about two million binary digits ("0" and "1") to the social media that encoded a configuration frame, two slides with mathematical content, and four images along with spatial and temporal information about their contents. Six questions were asked that would need to be answered to document the successful decryption of the message. Within a month after the posting, over 300 replies were received in total, including comments and requests for hints, 66 of which contained the correct solutions. About half of the solutions were derived fully independently, the other half profited from public online discussions and spoilers. This experiment demonstrates the power of the world wide web to help interpreting possible future messages from extraterrestrial intelligence and to test decryptability of our own deliberate interstellar messages.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

ALMA Detects Debris Disk Around Fomalhaut



An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has made the first complete millimeter-wavelength image of the ring of dusty debris surrounding the young star Fomalhaut. This remarkably well-defined band of rubble and gas is likely the result of exocomets smashing together near the outer edges of a planetary system 25 light-years from Earth.

Earlier ALMA observations of Fomalhaut -- taken in 2012 when the telescope was still under construction - revealed only about one half of the debris disk. Though this first image was merely a test of ALMA's initial capabilities, it nonetheless provided tantalizing hints about the nature and possible origin of the disk.


link.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Is there anybody out there?

Is there anybody out there?

Authors:

Anchordoqui et al

Abstract:

The Fermi paradox is the discrepancy between the strong likelihood of alien intelligent life emerging (under a wide variety of assumptions) and the absence of any visible evidence for such emergence. We use this intriguing unlikeness to derive an upper limit on the fraction of living intelligent species that develop communication technology \langle \xi_{\rm biotec} \rangle. \langle \cdots \rangle indicates average over all the multiple manners civilizations can arise, grow, and develop such technology, starting at any time since the formation of our Galaxy in any location inside it. Following Drake, we factorize \langle \xi_{\rm biotec} \rangle as the product of the fractions in which: (i) life arises, (ii) intelligence develops, and (iii) communication technology is developed. In this approximation, the number of communicating intelligent civilizations that exist in the Galaxy at any given time is found to be N = \langle \zeta_{\rm astro} \rangle \langle \xi_{\rm biotec} \rangle L_\tau, where \langle \zeta_{\rm astro} \rangle is the average production rate of potentially habitable planets with a long-lasting (\sim 4 Gyr) ecoshell and L_\tau is the length of time that a typical civilization communicates. We estimate the production rate of exoplanets in the habitable zone and using recent determinations of the rate of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and their luminosity function, we calculate the probability that a life-threatening (lethal) GRB could make a planet inhospitable to life, yielding \langle \zeta_{\rm astro} \rangle \sim 2 \times 10^{-3}. Our current measurement of N =0 then implies \langle \zeta_{\rm biotec} \rangle < 5 \times 10^{-3} at the 95\% C.L., where we have taken L_\tau > 0.3 Myr such that c L_\tau >> propagation distances of Galactic scales (\sim 10 kpc), ensuring that any advanced civilization living in the Milky Way would be able to communicate with us.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

ALMA Finds Organic Compounds in Protoplanetary Disks

Two teams of astronomers have harnessed the power of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to detect the prebiotic complex organic molecule methyl isocyanate [1] in the multiple star system IRAS 16293-2422. One team was co-led by Rafael Martín-Doménech at the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, Spain, and Víctor M. Rivilla, at the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Florence, Italy; and the other by Niels Ligterink at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands and Audrey Coutens at University College London, United Kingdom.

"This star system seems to keep on giving! Following the discovery of sugars, we've now found methyl isocyanate. This family of organic molecules is involved in the synthesis of peptides and amino acids, which, in the form of proteins, are the biological basis for life as we know it," explain Niels Ligterink and Audrey Coutens [2].

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trappist-1e Among Initial Observational Targets for the James Webb Space Telescope

Mission officials for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope announced some of the science targets the telescope will observe following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO), which provides dedicated time to the scientists that helped design and build the telescope's four instruments.

"From the very first galaxies after the Big Bang, to searching for chemical fingerprints of life on Enceladus, Europa, and exoplanets like TRAPPIST-1e, Webb will be looking at some incredible things in our universe," said Eric Smith, James Webb Space Telescope Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "With over 2100 initial observations planned, there is no limit to what we might discover with this incredible telescope."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Are Niven Rings Around Pulsars Detectable?

Are the Dyson rings around pulsars detectable?

Authors:


Osmanov

Abstract:
In the previous paper (Osmanov 2016) (henceforth Paper-I) we have extended the idea of Freeman Dyson and have shown that a supercivilization has to use ring-like megastructures around pulsars instead of a spherical shell. In this work we reexamine the same problem in the observational context and we show that facilities of modern IR telescopes (VLTI and WISE) might efficiently monitor the nearby zone of the solar system and search for the IR Dyson-rings up to distances of the order of 0.2kpc, corresponding to the current highest achievable angular resolution, 0.001mas. In this case the total number of pulsars in the observationally reachable area is about 64±21. We show that pulsars from the distance of the order of ∼1kpc are still visible for WISE as point-like sources but in order to confirm that the object is the neutron star, one has to use the UV telescopes, which at this moment cannot provide enough sensitivity.

Friday, June 9, 2017

U Oklahoma IDs Potential Make up of Trappist-1 Exoplanets



A University of Oklahoma post-doctoral astrophysics researcher, Billy Quarles, has identified the possible compositions of the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Using thousands of numerical simulations to identify the planets stable for millions of years, Quarles concluded that six of the seven planets are consistent with an Earth-like composition. The exception is TRAPPIST-1f, which has a mass of 25 percent water, suggesting that TRAPPIST-1e may be the best candidate for future habitability studies.

"The goal of exoplanetary astronomy is to find planets that are similar to Earth in composition and potentially habitable," said Quarles. "For thousands of years, astronomers have sought other worlds capable of sustaining life."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kelt-9b: A hot Jupiter Hotter Than Most Stars


A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot that it's stretching the definition of the word "planet."

With a day-side temperature of 4,600 Kelvin (more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit), planet KELT-9b is hotter than most stars, and only 1,200 Kelvin (about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than our own sun.

In this week's issue of the journal Nature and at a presentation at the American Astronomical Society spring meeting, an international research team led by astronomers at The Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University describes a planet with some very unusual features.

For instance, it's a gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon. And because it is tidally locked to its star--as the Moon is to Earth--the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation, and as a result is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane can't form there. The properties of the night side are still mysterious--molecules may be able to form there, but probably only temporarily.

"It's a planet by any of the typical definitions based on mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we've ever seen just because of the temperature of its day side," said Scott Gaudi, professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University and a leader of the study.

KELT-9b orbits a star, dubbed KELT-9, which is more than twice as large and nearly twice as hot as our sun. Keivan Stassun, a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt who directed the study with Gaudi said, "KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet. Or, if gas giant planets like KELT-9b possess solid rocky cores as some theories suggest, the planet may be boiled down to a barren rock, like Mercury."


Monday, June 5, 2017

Detecting Prior Indigenous Technological Species in our Solar System

Prior Indigenous Technological Species

Author: 
Wright

Abstract:

One of the primary open questions of astrobiology is whether there is extant or extinct life elsewhere the Solar System. Implicit in much of this work is that we are looking for microbial or, at best, unintelligent life, even though technological artifacts might be much easier to find. SETI work on searches for alien artifacts in the Solar System typically presumes that such artifacts would be of extrasolar origin, even though life is known to have existed in the Solar System, on Earth, for eons. But if a prior technological, perhaps spacefaring, species ever arose in the Solar System, it might have produced artifacts or other technosignatures that have survived to present day, meaning Solar System artifact SETI provides a potential path to resolving astrobiology's question. Here, I discuss the origins and possible locations for technosignatures of such a prior indigenous technological species, which might have arisen on ancient Earth or another body, such as a pre-greenhouse Venus or a wet Mars. In the case of Venus, the arrival of its global greenhouse and potential resurfacing might have erased all evidence of its existence on the Venusian surface. In the case of Earth, erosion and, ultimately, plate tectonics may have erased most such evidence if the species lived Gyr ago. Remaining indigenous technosignatures might be expected to be extremely old, limiting the places they might still be found to beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, or in the outer Solar System.

Transit Detection of a "Starshade" at the Inner Lagrange Point of an Exoplanet

Transit Detection of a "Starshade" at the Inner Lagrange Point of an Exoplanet 
Author:

Gaidos

Abstract: 
All water-covered rocky planets in the inner habitable zones of solar-type stars will inevitably experience a catastrophic runaway climate due to increasing stellar luminosity and limits to outgoing infrared radiation from wet greenhouse atmospheres. Reflectors or scatterers placed near Earth's inner Lagrange point (L1) have been proposed as a 'geo-engineering" solution to anthropogenic climate change and an advanced version of this could modulate incident irradiation over many Gyr or "rescue" a planet from the interior of the habitable zone. The distance of the starshade from the planet that minimizes its mass is 1.6 times the Earth-L1 distance. Such a starshade would have to be similar in size to the planet and the mutual occultations during planetary transits could produce a characteristic maximum at mid-transit in the light-curve. Because of a fortuitous ratio of densities, Earth-size planets around G dwarf stars present the best opportunity to detect such an artifact. The signal would be persistent and is potentially detectable by a future space photometry mission to characterize transiting planets. The signal could be distinguished from natural phenomenon, i.e. starspots or cometary dust clouds, by its shape, persistence, and transmission spectrum.

How Likely are we to Detect SETI Radio Signals

Signal coverage approach to the detection probability of hypothetical extraterrestrial emitters in the Milky Way 
Author: 
Grimaldi 
Abstract:
The lack of evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life, even the simplest forms of animal life, makes it is difficult to decide whether the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is more a high-risk, high-payoff endeavor than a futile attempt. Here we insist that even if extraterrestrial civilizations do exist and communicate, the likelihood of detecting their signals crucially depends on whether the Earth lies within a region of the galaxy covered by such signals. By considering possible populations of independent emitters in the galaxy, we build a statistical model of the domain covered by hypothetical extraterrestrial signals to derive the detection probability that the Earth is within such a domain. We show that for general distributions of the signal longevity and directionality, the mean number of detectable emitters is less than one even for detection probabilities as large as 50\%, regardless of the number of emitters in the galaxy.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Detecting a Nicoll-Dyson Beam

Detecting the Ultimate Power in the Universe with LSST

Authors:


Lund

Abstract:
Large time-domain surveys, when of sufficient scale, provide a greatly increased probability of detecting rare and, in many cases, unexpected events. Indeed, it is these unpredicted and previously unobserved objects that can lead to some of the greatest leaps in our understanding of the cosmos. The events that may be monitored include not only those that help contribute to our understanding of sources astrophysical variability, but may also extend to the discovery and characterization of civilizations comprised of other sentient lifeforms in the universe. In this paper we examine if the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will have the ability to detect the immediate and short-term effects of a concave dish composite beam superlaser being fired at an Earth analog from an alien megastructure.

Do not look into laser with remaining civilizaion.

Could Tabby's Star's Dimming be due to a Ring of Debris in OUR Solar System?

Tabetha's Rings

Author:


Katz

Abstract:
Could the dips of "Tabetha's Star" (KIC 8462852) have been caused by matter in our Solar System? The interval between periods of deep dips is nearly twice the orbital period of the Kepler satellite. I consider a clumpy particulate ring in the outer Solar System that grazes the line of sight to the star once per orbit of Kepler. The hypothesis predicts that future dips may be observed from Earth during windows separated by a year, although their detailed structure depends on the distribution of particles along the ring. Dips observed at separated sites will be decorrelated, with correlation lengths ≲1012 cm, and possibly as short as ∼600 m.

Did a Large Ringed Exoplanet With Trojans dim Tabby's Star?

KIC 8462852: Will the Trojans return in 2021?

Authors:


Ballesteros et al

Abstract:
KIC 8462852 stood out among more than 100,000 stars in the Kepler catalogue because of the strange features of its light curve: a wide and asymmetric dimming taking up to 15 per cent of the total light, together with a period of multiple, narrow dimmings happening approximately 700 days later. Several models have been proposed to account for this abnormal behaviour, most of which require either unlikely causes or a finely-tuned timing. We aim at offering a relatively natural solution, invoking only phenomena that have been previously observed, although perhaps in larger or more massive versions. We model the system using a large, ringed body whose transit produces the first dimming and a swarm of Trojan objects sharing its orbit that causes the second period of multiple dimmings. The resulting orbital period is T≈12 years, with a semi-major axis a≈6 au. Our model allows us to make two straightforward predictions: we expect the passage of a new swarm of Trojans in front of the star starting during the early months of 2021, and a new transit of the main object during the first half of 2023.

Did Tabby's Star Ingest an Exoplanet?

Secular dimming of KIC 8462852 following its consumption of a planet

Authors:


Metzger et al

Abstract:
The Kepler-field star KIC 8462852, an otherwise apparently ordinary F3 main-sequence star, showed several highly unusual dimming events of variable depth and duration. Adding to the mystery was the discovery that KIC 8462852 faded by 14 per cent from 1890 to 1989, as well as by another 3 per cent over the 4 yr Kepler mission. Following an initial suggestion by Wright & Sigurdsson, we propose that the secular dimming behaviour is the result of the inspiral of a planetary body or bodies into KIC 8462852, which took place ∼10–104 yr ago (depending on the planet mass). Gravitational energy released as the body inspirals into the outer layers of the star caused a temporary and unobserved brightening, from which the stellar flux is now returning to the quiescent state. The transient dimming events could then be due to obscuration by planetary debris from an earlier partial disruption of the same inspiralling bodies, or due to evaporation and outgassing from a tidally detached moon system. Alternatively, the dimming events could arise from a large number of comet- or planetesimal-mass bodies placed on to high-eccentricity orbits by the same mechanism (e.g. Lidov–Kozai oscillations due to the outer M-dwarf companion) responsible for driving the more massive planets into KIC 8462852. The required high occurrence rate of KIC 8462852-like systems that have undergone recent major planet inspiral event(s) is the greatest challenge to the model, placing large lower limits on the mass of planetary systems surrounding F stars and/or requiring an unlikely probability to catch KIC 8462852 in its current state.

Sonneberg Plate Photometry for Boyajian's Star in Two Passbands

Sonneberg Plate Photometry for Boyajian's Star in Two Passbands

Authors:


Hippke et al

Abstract:
The F3 main-sequence star KIC 8462852 (Boyajian's Star) showed deep (up to 20%) day-long brightness dips of unknown cause during the four years of the Kepler mission. A 0.164 mag (16%) dimming between 1890 and 1990 was claimed, based on the analysis of photographic plates from the Harvard Observatory. We have gathered an independent set of historic plates from Sonneberg Observatory, Germany, covering the years of 1934–1995. With 861 mag in B, and 397 mag in V, we find the star to be of constant brightness within 0.03 mag per century (3%). Consistent outcomes are found using by-eye estimates of the best 119 plates. Results are supported by data from Sternberg Observatory, Moscow, which show the star as constant between 1895 and 1995. The previously claimed century-long dimming is inconsistent with our results at the $5\sigma $-level, however, the recently reported modest dimming of 3% in the Kepler data is not inconsistent with our data. We find no periodicities or shorter trends within our limits of 5% per five year bin, but note a possible dimming event on 1978 October 24.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

DEPENDENCE OF SMALL PLANET FREQUENCY ON STELLAR METALLICITY HIDDEN BY THEIR PREVALENCE


Authors:

Zhu et al

Abstract:

The dependence of gas giant planet occurrence rate on stellar metallicity has been firmly established. We extend this so-called planet–metallicity correlation to broader ranges of metallicities and planet masses/radii. In particular, we assume that the planet–metallicity correlation is a power law below some critical saturation threshold, and that the probability of hosting at least one planet is unity for stars with metallicity above the threshold. We then are able to explain the discrepancy between the tentative detection and null detection in previous studies regarding the planet–metallicity correlation for small planets. In particular, we find that the null detection of this correlation can be attributed to the combination of high planet occurrence rate and low detection efficiency. Therefore, a planet–metallicity correlation for small planets cannot be ruled out. We propose that stars with metallicities lower than the solar value are better targets for testing the planet–metallicity correlation for small planets.

No Sign of a Second Planet Around Proxima Centauri


Authors:

Damasso et al

Abstract:

The detection and characterization of Earth-like planets with Doppler signals of the order of 1 m/s currently represent one of the greatest challenge for extrasolar-planet hunters. As results for such findings are often controversial, it is desirable to provide independent confirmations of the discoveries. Testing different models for the suppression of non-Keplerian stellar signals usually plaguing radial velocity data is essential to ensuring findings are robust and reproducible. Using an alternative treatment of the stellar noise to that discussed in the discovery paper, we re-analyze the radial velocity data that led to the detection of a candidate terrestrial planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri. We aim at confirming the existence of this outstanding planet, and test the existence of a second planetary signal. Our technique jointly models Keplerian signals and residual correlated signals (the noise) in radial velocities using Gaussian Processes. We analyse only radial velocity measurements without including other ancillary data. In a second step, we compare our outputs with results coming from photometry, to provide a consistent physical interpretation. Our analysis is performed in a Bayesian framework to quantify the robustness of our findings. We show that the correlated noise can be successfully modeled as a Gaussian process regression. It contains a periodic term modulated on the stellar rotation period and characterized by an evolutionary timescale of the order of 1 year. Both findings appear to be robust when compared with results obtained from archival photometry. We confirm the existence of a coherent signal described by a Keplerian orbit equation that can be attributed to the planet Proximab, and provide an independent estimate of the planetary parameters. Our Bayesian analysis dismisses the existence of a second planetary signal in the present dataset.

The Fate of Tatooine-like Circumbinary Exoplanets


Authors:

Kostov et al

Abstract:

Inspired by the recent Kepler discoveries of circumbinary planets orbiting nine close binary stars, we explore the fate of the former as the latter evolve off the main sequence. We combine binary star evolution models with dynamical simulations to study the orbital evolution of these planets as their hosts undergo common-envelope (CE) stages, losing in the process a tremendous amount of mass on dynamical timescales. Five of the systems experience at least one Roche-lobe overflow and CE stage (Kepler-1647 experiences three), and the binary stars either shrink to very short orbits or coalesce; two systems trigger a double-degenerate supernova explosion. Kepler's circumbinary planets predominantly remain gravitationally bound at the end of the CE phase, migrate to larger orbits, and may gain significant eccentricity; their orbital expansion can be more than an order of magnitude and can occur over the course of a single planetary orbit. The orbits these planets can reach are qualitatively consistent with those of the currently known post-CE, eclipse-time variations circumbinary candidates. Our results also show that circumbinary planets can experience both modes of orbital expansion (adiabatic and nonadiabatic) if their host binaries undergo more than one CE stage; multiplanet circumbinary systems like Kepler-47 can experience both modes during the same CE stage. Additionally, unlike Mercury orbiting the Sun, a circumbinary planet with the same semimajor axis can survive the CE evolution of a close binary star with a total mass of 1 ${M}_{\odot }$.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Ideal Stellar Mass for Long Term Habitability of Worlds


Authors:

Oishi et al

Abstract:

In addition to the habitable zone (HZ), the UV habitable zone (UV-HZ) is important when considering the existence of persistent life in the universe. The UV-HZ is defined as the area where the UV radiation field from a host star is moderate for persistent life existence. This is because UV is necessary for the synthesis of biochemical compounds. The UV-HZ must overlap the HZ when life appears and evolves. In this paper, following our previous study of the HZ, we examine the UV-HZ in cases with a stellar mass range from 0.08 to 4.00 M ☉ with various metallicities during the main sequence phase. This mass range was chosen because we are interested in an environment similar to that of Earth. The effect of metallicity is reflected in the spectrum of the host stars, and we reexamine it in the context of the UV-HZ. The present work shows the effect of metallicity when that in the UV-HZ is less than that in the HZ. Furthermore, we find that the chance of persistent life existence declines as the metallicity decreases, as long as the UV radiation is not protected and/or boosted by any mechanisms. This is because the overlapped region of a persistent HZ and UV-HZ decreases. We find that the most appropriate stellar mass for the persistence of life existence is from 1.0 to 1.5 M ☉ with metallicity Z = 0.02, and only about 1.2 M ☉ with Z = 0.002. When Z = 0.0002, the chance of persistent life existence is very low, assuming that the ocean does not protect the life from UV radiation.

Early Terrestrial Surface UV Environment Impacts on Prebiotic Chemistry


Authors:

Ranjan et al

Abstract:

The UV environment is a key boundary condition for the origin of life. However, considerable uncertainty exists as to planetary conditions and hence surface UV at abiogenesis. Here, we present two-stream multi-layer clear-sky calculations of the UV surface radiance on Earth at 3.9 Ga to constrain the UV surface fluence as a function of albedo, solar zenith angle (SZA), and atmospheric composition. Variation in albedo and latitude (through SZA) can affect maximum photoreaction rates by a factor of >10.4; for the same atmosphere, photoreactions can proceed an order of magnitude faster at the equator of a snowball Earth than at the poles of a warmer world. Surface conditions are important considerations when computing prebiotic UV fluences. For climatically reasonable levels of CO2, fluence shortward of 189 nm is screened out, meaning that prebiotic chemistry is robustly shielded from variations in UV fluence due to solar flares or variability. Strong shielding from CO2 also means that the UV surface fluence is insensitive to plausible levels of CH4, O2, and O3. At scattering wavelengths, UV fluence drops off comparatively slowly with increasing CO2 levels. However, if SO2 and/or H2S can build up to the 1-100 ppm level as hypothesized by some workers, then they can dramatically suppress surface fluence and hence prebiotic photoprocesses. H2O is a robust UV shield for

Tracing Carbon From the Interior of Stars to Surface of Planets


Authors:

Zuirys et al

Abstract:

The chemical history of carbon is traced from its origin in stellar nucleosynthesis to its delivery to planet surfaces. The molecular carriers of this element are examined at each stage in the cycling of interstellar organic material and their eventual incorporation into solar system bodies. The connection between the various interstellar carbon reservoirs is also examined. Carbon has two stellar sources: supernova explosions and mass loss from evolved stars. In the latter case, the carbon is dredged up from the interior and then ejected into a circumstellar envelope, where a rich and unusual C-based chemistry occurs. This molecular material is eventually released into the general interstellar medium through planetary nebulae. It is first incorporated into diffuse clouds, where carbon is found in polyatomic molecules such as H2CO, HCN, HNC, c-C3H2, and even C60+. These objects then collapse into dense clouds, the sites of star and planet formation. Such clouds foster an active organic chemistry, producing compounds with a wide range of functional groups with both gas-phase and surface mechanisms. As stars and planets form, the chemical composition is altered by increasing stellar radiation, as well as possibly by reactions in the presolar nebula. Some molecular, carbon-rich material remains pristine, however, encapsulated in comets, meteorites, and interplanetary dust particles, and is delivered to planet surfaces.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

First resolved image of the HD 114082 debris disk in the Lower Centaurus Crux with SPHERE


Authors:

Wahhaj et al

Abstract:

We present the first resolved image of the debris disk around the 16 ± 8 Myr old star, HD 114082. The observation was made in the H-band using the SPHERE instrument. The star is at a distance of 92 ± 6 pc in the Lower Centaurus Crux association. Using a Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis, we determined that the debris is likely in the form of a dust ring with an inner edge of 27.7+2.8-3.5 au, position angle –74.3°+0.5-1.5, and an inclination with respect to the line of sight of 6.7°+3.8-0.4. The disk imaged in scattered light has a surface density that is declining with radius of ~r-4, which is steeper than expected for grain blowout by radiation pressure. We find only marginal evidence (2σ) of eccentricity and rule out planets more massive than 1.0 MJup orbiting within 1 au of the inner edge of the ring, since such a planet would have disrupted the disk. The disk has roughly the same fractional disk luminosity (Ldisk/L∗ = 3.3 × 10-3) as HR 4796 A and β Pictoris, however it was not detected by previous instrument facilities most likely because of its small angular size (radius ~0.4′′), low albedo (~0.2), and low scattering efficiency far from the star due to high scattering anisotropy. With the arrival of extreme adaptive optics systems, such as SPHERE and GPI, the morphology of smaller, fainter, and more distant debris disks are being revealed, providing clues to planet-disk interactions in young protoplanetary systems.

ALMA Measurements of Circumstellar Material in the GQ Lup System

ALMA Measurements of Circumstellar Material in the GQ Lup System

Authors:

MacGregor et al

Abstract:
We present ALMA observations of the GQ Lup system, a young Sun-like star with a substellar mass companion in a wide-separation orbit. These observations of 870 μm continuum and CO J=3-2 line emission with beam size 0.3 (45 AU) resolve the disk of dust and gas surrounding the primary star, GQ Lup A, and provide deep limits on any circumplanetary disk surrounding the companion, GQ Lup b. The circumprimary dust disk is compact with a FWHM of 59±12 AU, while the gas has a larger extent with a characteristic radius of 46.5±1.8 AU. By forward-modeling the velocity field of the circumprimary disk based on the CO emission, we constrain the mass of GQ Lup A to be M=(1.03±0.05)(d/156 pc) M, where d is a known distance, and determine that we view the disk at an inclination angle of 60.5±0.5 and a position angle of 346±1. The 3σ upper limit on the 870 μm flux density of any circumplanetary disk associated with GQ Lup b of <0.15 mJy implies an upper limit on the dust disk mass of <0.04 M for standard assumptions about optically thin emission. We discuss proposed mechanisms for the formation of wide-separation substellar companions given the non-detection of circumplanetary disks around GQ Lup b and other similar systems.

A WISE-based search for debris discs amongst M-dwarfs in nearby, young, moving groups

A WISE-based search for debris discs amongst M-dwarfs in nearby, young, moving groups

Authors:

Binks et al

Abstract:
We present a search for debris discs amongst M-dwarf members of nearby, young (5-150 Myr) moving groups (MGs) using infrared (IR) photometry, primarily from the Wide Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). A catalogue of 100 MG M-dwarfs that have suitable WISE data is compiled and 19 of these are found to have significant IR excess emission at 22μm. Our search is likely to be complete for discs where the ratio of flux from the disc to flux from the star fd/f>103. The spectral energy distributions are supplemented with 2MASS photometry and data at longer wavelengths and fitted with simple disc models to characterise the IR excesses. There is a bimodal distribution -- twelve targets have W1W4>3, corresponding to fd/f>0.02 and are likely to be gas-rich, primordial discs. The remaining seven targets have W1W4<1 (fd/f103) and include three objects with previously known or suspected debris discs and four new debris disc candidates that are all members of the Beta Pic MG. All of the IR excesses are identified in stars that are likely members of MGs with age <30 Myr. The detected debris disc frequency falls from 13 to 5 per cent to <7 per cent (at 95 per cent confidence) for objects younger or older than 30 Myr respectively. This provides evidence for the evolution of debris discs on this timescale and does not support models where the maximum of debris disc emission occurs much later in lower-mass stars.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Grand Design Spiral Arms in A Young Forming Circumstellar Disk

Grand Design Spiral Arms in A Young Forming Circumstellar Disk

Authors:

Tomida et al

Abstract:

We study formation and long-term evolution of a circumstellar disk in a collapsing molecular cloud core using a resistive magnetohydrodynamic simulation. While the formed circumstellar disk is initially small, it grows as accretion continues and its radius becomes as large as 200 AUs toward the end of the Class-I phase. A pair of grand-design spiral arms form due to gravitational instability in the disk, and they transfer angular momentum in the highly resistive disk. Although the spiral arms disappear in a few rotations as expected in a classical theory, new spiral arms form recurrently as the disk soon becomes unstable again by gas accretion. Such recurrent spiral arms persist throughout the Class-0 and I phase. We then perform synthetic observations and compare our model with a recent high-resolution observation of a young stellar object Elias 2-27, whose circumstellar disk has grand design spiral arms. We find an excellent agreement between our theoretical model and the observation. Our model suggests that the grand design spiral arms around Elias 2-27 are consistent with material arms formed by gravitational instability. It also implies that the age of Elias 2-27 can be younger than the previous estimate.

Zoom-Simulations of Protoplanetary Disks starting from GMC scales


Authors:

Kuffmeier et al

Abstract:

We investigate the formation of protoplanetary disks around nine solar mass stars formed in the context of a 40 pc Giant Molecular Cloud model, using \ramses \ adaptive-mesh resolution simulations extending over a scale range of about 4 million, from an outer scale of 40 pc to a smallest cell size of 2 AU. Our most important qualitative result is that the accretion process is heterogeneous in multiple ways; in time, in space, and among protostars of otherwise similar mass. Accretion is heterogeneous in time, in the sense that accretion rates vary in time, with generally decreasing profiles, whose slopes can vary over a wide range, and where accretion can increase again if a protostar enters a region with increased density and low speed. Accretion is heterogeneous in space, because of the distribution of mass in space, with mass approaching the accreting star and disk in filaments and sheets. Finally, accretion is heterogeneous among stars, since the detailed conditions and dynamics in the neighborhood of each star can vary widely. We investigate in particular the sensitivity of disk formation to physical conditions, such as mass-to-flux ratio, and to sink particle recipe parameters. We find that disks frequently form, even when choosing the least favorable sink particle parameters, and that turbulence carried along from larger scales is a main factor in allowing disks to form even when the magnetic field is comparatively strong.

First Detection of Hydrogen in the β Pictoris Gas Disk


Authors:

Wilson et al

Abstract:

The young and nearby star \beta\ Pictoris (\beta\ Pic) is surrounded by a debris disk composed of dust and gas known to host a myriad evaporating exocomets, planetesimals and at least one planet. At an edge-on inclination, as seen from Earth, this system is ideal for debris disk studies providing an excellent opportunity to use absorption spectroscopy to study the planet forming environment. Using the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) we observe the most abundant element in the disk, hydrogen, through the HI Lyman \alpha\ (Ly-\alpha\) line. We present a new technique to decrease the contamination of the Ly-\alpha\ line by geocoronal airglow in COS spectra. This Airglow Virtual Motion (AVM) technique allows us to shift the Ly-\alpha\ line of the astrophysical target away from the contaminating airglow emission revealing more of the astrophysical line profile. The column density of hydrogen in the \beta\ Pic stable gas disk at the stellar radial velocity is measured to be log(NH/1cm2)≪18.5. The Ly-\alpha\ emission line profile is found to be asymmetric and we propose that this is caused by HI falling in towards the star with a bulk radial velocity of 41±6 km/s relative to \beta\ Pic and a column density of log(NH/1cm2)=18.6±0.1. The high column density of hydrogen relative to the hydrogen content of CI chondrite meteorites indicates that the bulk of the hydrogen gas does not come from the dust in the disk. This column density reveals a hydrogen abundance much lower than solar, which excludes the possibility that the detected hydrogen could be a remnant of the protoplanetary disk or gas expelled by the star. We hypothesise that the hydrogen gas observed falling towards the star arises from the dissociation of water originating from evaporating exocomets.

Friday, February 17, 2017

DOES A DIFFERENTIATED, CARBONATE-RICH, ROCKY OBJECT POLLUTE THE WHITE DWARF SDSS J104341.53+085558.2?


Authors:

Melis et al

Abstract:

We present spectroscopic observations of the dust- and gas-enshrouded, polluted, single white dwarf star SDSS J104341.53+085558.2 (hereafter SDSS J1043+0855). Hubble Space Telescope Cosmic Origins Spectrograph far-ultraviolet spectra combined with deep Keck HIRES optical spectroscopy reveal the elements C, O, Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Ca, Fe, and Ni and enable useful limits for Sc, Ti, V, Cr, and Mn in the photosphere of SDSS J1043+0855. From this suite of elements we determine that the parent body being accreted by SDSS J1043+0855 is similar to the silicate Moon or the outer layers of Earth in that it is rocky and iron-poor. Combining this with comparison to other heavily polluted white dwarf stars, we are able to identify the material being accreted by SDSS J1043+0855 as likely to have come from the outermost layers of a differentiated object. Furthermore, we present evidence that some polluted white dwarfs (including SDSS J1043+0855) allow us to examine the structure of differentiated extrasolar rocky bodies. Enhanced levels of carbon in the body polluting SDSS J1043+0855 relative to the Earth–Moon system can be explained with a model where a significant amount of the accreted rocky minerals took the form of carbonates; specifically, through this model the accreted material could be up to 9% calcium-carbonate by mass.

HIP 67537B: A Brown Dwarf in an Eccentric Orbit


Authors:

Jones et al

Abstract:

We report the discovery of a substellar companion around the giant star HIP67537. Based on precision radial velocity measurements from CHIRON and FEROS high-resolution spectroscopic data, we derived the following orbital elements for HIP67537 b: mbsini = 11.1 ± 0.6 MJ, a = 5.0 ± 0.2 AU and e = 0.59 ± 0.04. Considering random inclination angles, this object has ≳ 65% probability to be above the theoretical deuterium-burning limit, thus it is one of the few known objects in the planet to brown-dwarf transition region. In addition, we analyzed the Hipparcos astrometric data of this star, from which we derived a minimum inclination angle for the companion of 3 degrees. This value corresponds to an upper mass limit of 0.22 M⊙, therefore the probability that HIP67537 b is stellar in nature is only ∼ 6%. The large mass of the host star and the high orbital eccentricity makes HIP67537 b a very interesting and rare substellar objects. This is the second companion in the "brown dwarf desert" among our sample of EXPRESS intermediate-mass stars, corresponding to a detection fraction of f = 1.6+2.0−0.5%. This value is larger than the fraction observed in solar-type stars, providing further observational evidence of the enhanced formation efficiency of very massive planets and low-mass brown dwarfs in massive disks. Finally, we speculate about different formation channels for objects like HIP67537 b and HIP97233 b