ABSTRACT: The Gemini Planet Imager is a dedicated facility for directly imaging and spectroscopically characterizing extrasolar planets. It combines a very high-order adaptive optics system, a diffraction-suppressing coronagraph, and an integral field spectrograph with low spectral resolution but high spatial resolution. Every aspect of the Gemini Planet Imager has been tuned for maximum sensitivity to faint planets near bright stars. During first-light observations, we achieved an estimated H band Strehl ratio of 0.89 and a 5-σ contrast of 10(6) at 0.75 arcseconds and 10(5) at 0.35 arcseconds. Observations of Beta Pictoris clearly detect the planet, Beta Pictoris b, in a single 60-s exposure with minimal postprocessing. Beta Pictoris b is observed at a separation of 434 ± 6 milliarcseconds (mas) and position angle 211.8 ± 0.5°. Fitting the Keplerian orbit of Beta Pic b using the new position together with previous astrometry gives a factor of 3 improvement in most parameters over previous solutions. The planet orbits at a semimajor axis of [Formula: see text] near the 3:2 resonance with the previously known 6-AU asteroidal belt and is aligned with the inner warped disk. The observations give a 4% probability of a transit of the planet in late 2017.
Project description:The nearly circular (mean eccentricity [Formula: see text]) and coplanar (mean mutual inclination [Formula: see text]) orbits of the solar system planets motivated Kant and Laplace to hypothesize that planets are formed in disks, which has developed into the widely accepted theory of planet formation. The first several hundred extrasolar planets (mostly Jovian) discovered using the radial velocity (RV) technique are commonly on eccentric orbits ([Formula: see text]). This raises a fundamental question: Are the solar system and its formation special? The Kepler mission has found thousands of transiting planets dominated by sub-Neptunes, but most of their orbital eccentricities remain unknown. By using the precise spectroscopic host star parameters from the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) observations, we measure the eccentricity distributions for a large (698) and homogeneous Kepler planet sample with transit duration statistics. Nearly half of the planets are in systems with single transiting planets (singles), whereas the other half are multiple transiting planets (multiples). We find an eccentricity dichotomy: on average, Kepler singles are on eccentric orbits with [Formula: see text] 0.3, whereas the multiples are on nearly circular [Formula: see text] and coplanar [Formula: see text] degree) orbits similar to those of the solar system planets. Our results are consistent with previous studies of smaller samples and individual systems. We also show that Kepler multiples and solar system objects follow a common relation [[Formula: see text](1-2)[Formula: see text]] between mean eccentricities and mutual inclinations. The prevalence of circular orbits and the common relation may imply that the solar system is not so atypical in the galaxy after all.
Project description:The statistics of extrasolar planetary systems indicate that the default mode of planet formation generates planets with orbital periods shorter than 100 days and masses substantially exceeding that of the Earth. When viewed in this context, the Solar System is unusual. Here, we present simulations which show that a popular formation scenario for Jupiter and Saturn, in which Jupiter migrates inward from a > 5 astronomical units (AU) to a ? 1.5 AU before reversing direction, can explain the low overall mass of the Solar System's terrestrial planets, as well as the absence of planets with a < 0.4 AU. Jupiter's inward migration entrained s ? 10-100 km planetesimals into low-order mean motion resonances, shepherding and exciting their orbits. The resulting collisional cascade generated a planetesimal disk that, evolving under gas drag, would have driven any preexisting short-period planets into the Sun. In this scenario, the Solar System's terrestrial planets formed from gas-starved mass-depleted debris that remained after the primary period of dynamical evolution.
Project description:In the inner solar system, the planets' orbits evolve chaotically, driven primarily by secular chaos. Mercury has a particularly chaotic orbit and is in danger of being lost within a few billion years. Just as secular chaos is reorganizing the solar system today, so it has likely helped organize it in the past. We suggest that extrasolar planetary systems are also organized to a large extent by secular chaos. A hot Jupiter could be the end state of a secularly chaotic planetary system reminiscent of the solar system. However, in the case of the hot Jupiter, the innermost planet was Jupiter (rather than Mercury) sized, and its chaotic evolution was terminated when it was tidally captured by its star. In this contribution, we review our recent work elucidating the physics of secular chaos and applying it to Mercury and to hot Jupiters. We also present results comparing the inclinations of hot Jupiters thus produced with observations.
Project description:The interaction between Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind results in the formation of a collisionless bow shock 60,000-100,000?km upstream of our planet, as long as the solar wind fast magnetosonic Mach (hereafter Mach) number exceeds unity. Here, we present one of those extremely rare instances, when the solar wind Mach number reached steady values <1 for several hours on 17 January 2013. Simultaneous measurements by more than ten spacecraft in the near-Earth environment reveal the evanescence of the bow shock, the sunward motion of the magnetopause and the extremely rapid and intense loss of electrons in the outer radiation belt. This study allows us to directly observe the state of the inner magnetosphere, including the radiation belts during a type of solar wind-magnetosphere coupling which is unusual for planets in our solar system but may be common for close-in extrasolar planets.
Project description:The high-pressure behavior of Fe alloys governs the interior structure and dynamics of super-Earths, rocky extrasolar planets that could be as much as 10 times more massive than Earth. In experiments reaching up to 1300 GPa, we combine laser-driven dynamic ramp compression with in situ x-ray diffraction to study the effect of composition on the crystal structure and density of Fe-Si alloys, a potential constituent of super-Earth cores. We find that Fe-Si alloy with 7 weight % (wt %) Si adopts the hexagonal close-packed structure over the measured pressure range, whereas Fe-15wt%Si is observed in a body-centered cubic structure. This study represents the first experimental determination of the density and crystal structure of Fe-Si alloys at pressures corresponding to the center of a ~3-Earth mass terrestrial planet. Our results allow for direct determination of the effects of light elements on core radius, density, and pressures for these planets.
Project description:The detection of strong thermochemical disequilibrium in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet is thought to be a potential biosignature. In this article we present a previously unidentified kind of false positive that can mimic a disequilibrium or any other biosignature that involves two chemical species. We consider a scenario where the exoplanet hosts a moon that has its own atmosphere and neither of the atmospheres is in chemical disequilibrium. Our results show that the integrated spectrum of the planet and the moon closely resembles that of a single object in strong chemical disequilibrium. We derive a firm limit on the maximum spectral resolution that can be obtained for both directly imaged and transiting planets. The spectral resolution of even idealized space-based spectrographs that might be achievable in the next several decades is in general insufficient to break the degeneracy. Both chemical species can only be definitively confirmed in the same object if absorption features of both chemicals can be unambiguously identified and their combined depth exceeds 100%.
Project description:Recent observations and analysis of low mass (<10 M?), exoplanets have found that rocky planets only have radii up to 1.5–2 R?. Two general hypotheses exist for the cause of the dichotomy between rocky and gas-enveloped planets (or possible water worlds): either low mass planets do not necessarily form thick atmospheres of a few wt. %, or the thick atmospheres on these planets easily escape driven by x-ray and extreme ultraviolet (XUV) emissions from young parent stars. Here we show that a cutoff between rocky and gas-enveloped planets due to hydrodynamic escape is most likely to occur at a mean radius of 1.76±0.38 (2?) R? around Sun-like stars. We examine the limit in rocky planet radii predicted by hydrodynamic escape across a wide range of possible model inputs using 10,000 parameter combinations drawn randomly from plausible parameter ranges. We find a cutoff between rocky and gas-enveloped planets that agrees with the observed cutoff. The large cross-section available for XUV absorption in the extremely distended primitive atmospheres of low mass planets results in complete loss of atmospheres during the ~100 Myr phase of stellar XUV saturation. In contrast, more massive planets have less distended atmospheres and less escape, and so retain thick atmospheres through XUV saturation and then indefinitely as the XUV and escape fluxes drop over time. The agreement between our model and exoplanet data leads us to conclude that hydrodynamic escape plausibly explains the observed upper limit on rocky planet size and few planets (a “valley”) in the 1.5–2 R? range.
Project description:The radii and orbital periods of 4,000+ confirmed/candidate exoplanets have been precisely measured by the Kepler mission. The radii show a bimodal distribution, with two peaks corresponding to smaller planets (likely rocky) and larger intermediate-size planets, respectively. While only the masses of the planets orbiting the brightest stars can be determined by ground-based spectroscopic observations, these observations allow calculation of their average densities placing constraints on the bulk compositions and internal structures. However, an important question about the composition of planets ranging from 2 to 4 Earth radii (R⊕) still remains. They may either have a rocky core enveloped in a H2-He gaseous envelope (gas dwarfs) or contain a significant amount of multicomponent, H2O-dominated ices/fluids (water worlds). Planets in the mass range of 10-15 M⊕, if half-ice and half-rock by mass, have radii of 2.5 R⊕, which exactly match the second peak of the exoplanet radius bimodal distribution. Any planet in the 2- to 4-R⊕ range requires a gas envelope of at most a few mass percentage points, regardless of the core composition. To resolve the ambiguity of internal compositions, we use a growth model and conduct Monte Carlo simulations to demonstrate that many intermediate-size planets are "water worlds."
Project description:Discs of gas and dust around million-year-old stars are a by-product of the star formation process and provide the raw material to form planets. Hence, their evolution and dispersal directly impact what type of planets can form and affect the final architecture of planetary systems. Here, we review empirical constraints on disc evolution and dispersal with special emphasis on transition discs, a subset of discs that appear to be caught in the act of clearing out planet-forming material. Along with observations, we summarize theoretical models that build our physical understanding of how discs evolve and disperse and discuss their significance in the context of the formation and evolution of planetary systems. By confronting theoretical predictions with observations, we also identify the most promising areas for future progress.
Project description:Approximately half of the extrasolar planets (exoplanets) with radii less than four Earth radii are in orbits with short periods. Despite their sheer abundance, the compositions of such planets are largely unknown. The available evidence suggests that they range in composition from small, high-density rocky planets to low-density planets consisting of rocky cores surrounded by thick hydrogen and helium gas envelopes. Here we report the metallicities (that is, the abundances of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) of more than 400 stars hosting 600 exoplanet candidates, and find that the exoplanets can be categorized into three populations defined by statistically distinct (?4.5?) metallicity regions. We interpret these regions as reflecting the formation regimes of terrestrial-like planets (radii less than 1.7 Earth radii), gas dwarf planets with rocky cores and hydrogen-helium envelopes (radii between 1.7 and 3.9 Earth radii) and ice or gas giant planets (radii greater than 3.9 Earth radii). These transitions correspond well with those inferred from dynamical mass estimates, implying that host star metallicity, which is a proxy for the initial solids inventory of the protoplanetary disk, is a key ingredient regulating the structure of planetary systems.