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See detailCharacterizing exoplanetary atmospheres with a mid-infrared nulling spectrograph
Defrere, Denis ULg; Léger, Alain; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

Poster (2017, March 07)

The discovery of an increasing number of terrestrial planets around nearby stars marks the dawn of a new era in the exoplanet field: the characterization and understanding of their atmospheres. To make ... [more ▼]

The discovery of an increasing number of terrestrial planets around nearby stars marks the dawn of a new era in the exoplanet field: the characterization and understanding of their atmospheres. To make significant progress, it becomes clear that a large number of exoplanetary atmospheres have to be studied at various wavelengths. This is particularly relevant for identifying possible bio-signatures. In this poster, we present a concept of a space-based mid-infrared nulling spectrograph that can characterize a large number of exoplanetary atmospheres and provide key information on their size, surface temperature, and the presence of key molecules such as CO2, H2O, CH4 and O3. The proposed mission concept would be particularly suited to characterize Proxima Cen b. [less ▲]

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See detailThe W. M. Keck Observatory infrared vortex coronagraph and a first image of HIP79124 B
Serabyn, Eugene; Huby, Elsa ULg; Matthews, Keith et al

in Astronomical Journal (The) (2017), 153(1), 43

An optical vortex coronagraph has been implemented within the NIRC2 camera on the Keck II telescope and used to carry out on-sky tests and observations. The development of this new L'-band observational ... [more ▼]

An optical vortex coronagraph has been implemented within the NIRC2 camera on the Keck II telescope and used to carry out on-sky tests and observations. The development of this new L'-band observational mode is described, and an initial demonstration of the new capability is presented: a resolved image of the low-mass companion to HIP79124, which had previously been detected by means of interferometry. With HIP79124 B at a projected separation of 186.5 mas, both the small inner working angle of the vortex coronagraph and the related imaging improvements were crucial in imaging this close companion directly. Due to higher Strehl ratios and more relaxed contrasts in L' band versus H band, this new coronagraphic capability will enable high-contrast small-angle observations of nearby young exoplanets and disks on a par with those of shorter-wavelength extreme adaptive optics coronagraphs. [less ▲]

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See detailCharacterization of the inner disk around HD 141569 A from Keck/NIRC2 L-band vortex coronagraphy
Mawet, Dimitri; Choquet, Élodie; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in Astronomical Journal (The) (2017), 153(1), 44

HD 141569 A is a pre-main sequence B9.5 Ve star surrounded by a prominent and complex circumstellar disk, likely still in a transition stage from protoplanetary to debris disk phase. Here, we present a ... [more ▼]

HD 141569 A is a pre-main sequence B9.5 Ve star surrounded by a prominent and complex circumstellar disk, likely still in a transition stage from protoplanetary to debris disk phase. Here, we present a new image of the third inner disk component of HD 141569 A made in the L' band (3.8 micron) during the commissioning of the vector vortex coronagraph recently installed in the near-infrared imager and spectrograph NIRC2 behind the W.M. Keck Observatory Keck II adaptive optics system. We used reference point spread function subtraction, which reveals the innermost disk component from the inner working distance of $\simeq 23$ AU and up to $\simeq 70$ AU. The spatial scale of our detection roughly corresponds to the optical and near-infrared scattered light, thermal Q, N and 8.6 micron PAH emission reported earlier. We also see an outward progression in dust location from the L'-band to the H-band (VLT/SPHERE image) to the visible (HST/STIS image), likely indicative of dust blowout. The warm disk component is nested deep inside the two outer belts imaged by HST NICMOS in 1999 (respectively at 406 and 245 AU). We fit our new L'-band image and spectral energy distribution of HD 141569 A with the radiative transfer code MCFOST. Our best-fit models favor pure olivine grains, and are consistent with the composition of the outer belts. While our image shows a putative very-faint point-like clump or source embedded in the inner disk, we did not detect any true companion within the gap between the inner disk and the first outer ring, at a sensitivity of a few Jupiter masses. [less ▲]

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See detailProxima Cen b: theoretical spectral signatures for different atmospheric scenarios
Defrere, Denis ULg; Leger, A.; Grenfell, J.l. et al

Speech/Talk (2016)

We consider several possible atmospheric compositions for our nearest neighboring planet, a.k.a. Proxima Can b, and compute the infrared spectrum with modern planetary atmosphere models. To be specific ... [more ▼]

We consider several possible atmospheric compositions for our nearest neighboring planet, a.k.a. Proxima Can b, and compute the infrared spectrum with modern planetary atmosphere models. To be specific, we consider (1) a bare planet, which has lost its atmosphere; (2) a water-ocean planet; (3) an Earth-analog planet; and (4) a planet similar to Earth but with a lower O2 pressure (< 1mbar) that produces a false positive for the triple signature (H20, O3, and CO2). We discuss the information in each infrared spectrum and the possibility to identify the nature of the atmospheres by remote sensing. The same exercise is performed for a rocky planet in the habitable zone of a K2V star, such as epsilon Eri. [less ▲]

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See detailA near-infrared interferometric survey of debris-disc stars. V. PIONIER search for variability
Ertel, S.; Defrere, Denis ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2016), 595

Context. Extended circumstellar emission has been detected within a few 100 milli-arcsec around ≳10% of nearby main sequence stars using near-infrared interferometry. Follow-up observations using other ... [more ▼]

Context. Extended circumstellar emission has been detected within a few 100 milli-arcsec around ≳10% of nearby main sequence stars using near-infrared interferometry. Follow-up observations using other techniques, should they yield similar results or non-detections, can provide strong constraints on the origin of the emission. They can also reveal the variability of the phenomenon. Aims: We aim to demonstrate the persistence of the phenomenon over the timescale of a few years and to search for variability of our previously detected excesses. Methods: Using Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI)/Precision Integrated Optics Near Infrared ExpeRiment (PIONIER) in H band we have carried out multi-epoch observations of the stars for which a near-infrared excess was previously detected using the same observation technique and instrument. The detection rates and distribution of the excesses from our original survey and the follow-up observations are compared statistically. A search for variability of the excesses in our time series is carried out based on the level of the broadband excesses. Results: In 12 of 16 follow-up observations, an excess is re-detected with a significance of > 2σ, and in 7 of 16 follow-up observations significant excess (> 3σ) is re-detected. We statistically demonstrate with very high confidence that the phenomenon persists for the majority of the systems. We also present the first detection of potential variability in two sources. Conclusions: We conclude that the phenomenon responsible for the excesses persists over the timescale of a few years for the majority of the systems. However, we also find that variability intrinsic to a target can cause it to have no significant excess at the time of a specific observation. [less ▲]

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See detailDelay Compensation for Real Time Disturbance Estimation at Extremely Large Telescopes
Bohm, Michael; Pott, Jorg-Uwe; Kurster, Martin et al

in IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology (2016), PP(99), 10

In ground-based astronomy, aberrations due to structural vibrations, such as piston, limit the achievable resolution and cannot be corrected using adaptive optics (AO) for large telescopes. We present a ... [more ▼]

In ground-based astronomy, aberrations due to structural vibrations, such as piston, limit the achievable resolution and cannot be corrected using adaptive optics (AO) for large telescopes. We present a model-free strategy to estimate and compensate piston aberrations due to the vibrations of optical components using accelerometer disturbance feed forward, eventually allowing the use of fainter guide stars both for the fringe detector and in the AO loop. Because the correction performance is very sensitive to signal delays, we present a strategy to add a delay compensation to the developed disturbance estimator, which can, in principle, be applied to many other applications outside of astronomy that lack observer performance due to a measurement delay or need a prediction to compensate for input delays. The ability to estimate vibration disturbances in the critical frequency range of 8-60 Hz is demonstrated with on sky data from the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) Interferometer, an interferometer at the LBT. The experimental results are promising, indicating the ability to suppress differential piston induced by telescope vibrations by a factor of about 3 (rms), which is significantly better than any currently commissioned system. [less ▲]

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See detailMaking high-accuracy null depth measurements for the LBTI exozodi survey
Mennesson, Bertrand; Defrere, Denis ULg; Nowak, Matthias et al

in Malbet, F.; Creech-Eakman, M.; Tuthill, P. (Eds.) Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V (2016, August 04)

The characterization of exozodiacal light emission is both important for the understanding of planetary systems evolution and for the preparation of future space missions aiming to characterize low mass ... [more ▼]

The characterization of exozodiacal light emission is both important for the understanding of planetary systems evolution and for the preparation of future space missions aiming to characterize low mass planets in the habitable zone of nearby main sequence stars. The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) exozodi survey aims at providing a ten-fold improvement over current state of the art, measuring dust emission levels down to a typical accuracy of 12 zodis per star, for a representative ensemble of 30+ high priority targets. Such measurements promise to yield a final accuracy of about 2 zodis on the median exozodi level of the targets sample. Reaching a 1 σ measurement uncertainty of 12 zodis per star corresponds to measuring interferometric cancellation ("null") levels, i.e visibilities at the few 100 ppm uncertainty level. We discuss here the challenges posed by making such high accuracy mid-infrared visibility measurements from the ground and present the methodology we developed for achieving current best levels of 500 ppm or so. We also discuss current limitations and plans for enhanced exozodi observations over the next few years at LBTI. [less ▲]

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See detailThe path to interferometry in space
Rinehart, S. A.; Savini, G.; Holland, W. et al

in Malbet, F.; Creech-Eakman, M.; Tuthill, P. (Eds.) Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V (2016, August 04)

For over two decades, astronomers have considered the possibilities for interferometry in space. The first of these missions was the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), but that was followed by missions ... [more ▼]

For over two decades, astronomers have considered the possibilities for interferometry in space. The first of these missions was the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), but that was followed by missions for studying exoplanets (e.g Terrestrial Planet Finder, Darwin), and then far-infrared interferometers (e.g. the Space Infrared Interferometric Telescope, the Far-Infrared Interferometer). Unfortunately, following the cancellation of SIM, the future for space-based interferometry has been in doubt, and the interferometric community needs to reevaluate the path forward. While interferometers have strong potential for scientific discovery, there are technological developments still needed, and continued maturation of techniques is important for advocacy to the broader astronomical community. We review the status of several concepts for space-based interferometry, and look for possible synergies between missions oriented towards different science goals. [less ▲]

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See detailOverview of LBTI: a multipurpose facility for high spatial resolution observations
Hinz, P. M.; Defrere, Denis ULg; Skemer, A. et al

in Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series (2016, August 01)

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) is a high spatial resolution instrument developed for coherent imaging and nulling interferometry using the 14.4 m baseline of the 2×8.4 m LBT. The ... [more ▼]

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) is a high spatial resolution instrument developed for coherent imaging and nulling interferometry using the 14.4 m baseline of the 2×8.4 m LBT. The unique telescope design, comprising of the dual apertures on a common elevation-azimuth mount, enables a broad use of observing modes. The full system is comprised of dual adaptive optics systems, a near-infrared phasing camera, a 1-5 μm camera (called LMIRCam), and an 8-13 μm camera (called NOMIC). The key program for LBTI is the Hunt for Observable Signatures of Terrestrial planetary Systems (HOSTS), a survey using nulling interferometry to constrain the typical brightness from exozodiacal dust around nearby stars. Additional observations focus on the detection and characterization of giant planets in the thermal infrared, high spatial resolution imaging of complex scenes such as Jupiter's moon, Io, planets forming in transition disks, and the structure of active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). Several instrumental upgrades are currently underway to improve and expand the capabilities of LBTI. These include: Improving the performance and limiting magnitude of the parallel adaptive optics systems; quadrupling the field of view of LMIRcam (increasing to 20"x20"); adding an integral field spectrometry mode; and implementing a new algorithm for path length correction that accounts for dispersion due to atmospheric water vapor. We present the current architecture and performance of LBTI, as well as an overview of the upgrades. [less ▲]

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See detailEnabling the direct detection of earth-sized exoplanets with the LBTI HOSTS project: a progress report
Danchi, W.; Bailey, V.; Bryden, G. et al

in Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series (2016, August 01)

NASA has funded a project called the Hunt for Observable Signatures of Terrestrial Systems (HOSTS) to survey nearby solar type stars to determine the amount of warm zodiacal dust in their habitable zones ... [more ▼]

NASA has funded a project called the Hunt for Observable Signatures of Terrestrial Systems (HOSTS) to survey nearby solar type stars to determine the amount of warm zodiacal dust in their habitable zones. The goal is not only to determine the luminosity distribution function but also to know which individual stars have the least amount of zodiacal dust. It is important to have this information for future missions that directly image exoplanets as this dust is the main source of astrophysical noise for them. The HOSTS project utilizes the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI), which consists of two 8.4-m apertures separated by a 14.4-m baseline on Mt. Graham, Arizona. The LBTI operates in a nulling mode in the mid-infrared spectral window (8-13 μm), in which light from the two telescopes is coherently combined with a 180 degree phase shift between them, producing a dark fringe at the location of the target star. In doing so the starlight is greatly reduced, increasing the contrast, analogous to a coronagraph operating at shorter wavelengths. The LBTI is a unique instrument, having only three warm reflections before the starlight reaches cold mirrors, giving it the best photometric sensitivity of any interferometer operating in the mid-infrared. It also has a superb Adaptive Optics (AO) system giving it Strehl ratios greater than 98% at 10 μm. In 2014 into early 2015 LBTI was undergoing commissioning. The HOSTS project team passed its Operational Readiness Review (ORR) in April 2015. The team recently published papers on the target sample, modeling of the nulled disk images, and initial results such as the detection of warm dust around η Corvi. Recently a paper was published on the data pipeline and on-sky performance. An additional paper is in preparation on β Leo. We will discuss the scientific and programmatic context for the LBTI project, and we will report recent progress, new results, and plans for the science verification phase that started in February 2016, and for the survey. [less ▲]

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See detailCommissioning and first light results of an L'-band vortex coronagraph with the Keck II adaptive optics NIRC2 science instrument
Femenía Castellá, Bruno; Serabyn, Eugene; Mawet, Dimitri et al

in Marchetti, E.; Close, L.; Véran, J.-P. (Eds.) Adaptive Optics Systems V (2016, July 26)

On March 2015 an L'-band vortex coronagraph based on an Annular Groove Phase Mask made up of a diamond sub-wavelength grating was installed on NIRC2 as a demonstration project. This vortex coronagraph ... [more ▼]

On March 2015 an L'-band vortex coronagraph based on an Annular Groove Phase Mask made up of a diamond sub-wavelength grating was installed on NIRC2 as a demonstration project. This vortex coronagraph operates in the L' band not only in order to take advantage from the favorable star/planet contrast ratio when observing beyond the K band, but also to exploit the fact that the Keck II Adaptive Optics (AO) system delivers nearly extreme adaptive optics image quality (Strehl ratios values near 90%) at 3.7μm. We describe the hardware installation of the vortex phase mask during a routine NIRC2 service mission. The success of the project depends on extensive software development which has allowed the achievement of exquisite real-time pointing control as well as further contrast improvements by using speckle nulling to mitigate the effect of static speckles. First light of the new coronagraphic mode was on June 2015 with already very good initial results. Subsequent commissioning nights were interlaced with science nights by members of the VORTEX team with their respective scientific programs. The new capability and excellent results so far have motivated the VORTEX team and the Keck Science Steering Committee (KSSC) to offer the new mode in shared risk mode for 2016B. [less ▲]

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See detailOVMS-plus at the LBT: disturbance compensation simplified
Böhm, Michael; Pott, Jörg-Uwe; Borelli, José et al

in Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series (2016, July 01)

In this paper we will briefly revisit the optical vibration measurement system (OVMS) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and how these values are used for disturbance compensation and particularly for ... [more ▼]

In this paper we will briefly revisit the optical vibration measurement system (OVMS) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and how these values are used for disturbance compensation and particularly for the LBT Interferometer (LBTI) and the LBT Interferometric Camera for Near-Infrared and Visible Adaptive Interferometry for Astronomy (LINC-NIRVANA). We present the now centralized software architecture, called OVMS+, on which our approach is based and illustrate several challenges faced during the implementation phase. Finally, we will present measurement results from LBTI proving the effectiveness of the approach and the ability to compensate for a large fraction of the telescope induced vibrations. [less ▲]

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See detailUnveiling new stellar companions from the EXOZODI survey : follow up
Marion, Lindsay ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Ertel, Steve et al

Poster (2016, June 30)

In 2012, we have conducted a survey of nearby main sequence stars with VLTI/PIONIER to search for the presence of circumstellar dust. We focused on the use of the closure phases and the square ... [more ▼]

In 2012, we have conducted a survey of nearby main sequence stars with VLTI/PIONIER to search for the presence of circumstellar dust. We focused on the use of the closure phases and the square visibilities in a combined way to search for faint companions around the whole sample. In this process, we found four new stellar companions, for which we conducted follow-up observations in 2014. This follow up allows us to confirm the four detections, and to detect another new companion. Only the case of HD202730 remains ambiguous. [less ▲]

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See detailThree years of harvest with the vector vortex coronagraph in the thermal infrared
Absil, Olivier ULg; Mawet, D.; Karlsson, M. et al

in Evans, C.; Simard, L.; Takami, H. (Eds.) Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy VI (2016, June 26)

For several years, we have been developing vortex phase masks based on sub-wavelength gratings, known as Annular Groove Phase Masks. Etched onto diamond substrates, these AGPMs are currently designed to ... [more ▼]

For several years, we have been developing vortex phase masks based on sub-wavelength gratings, known as Annular Groove Phase Masks. Etched onto diamond substrates, these AGPMs are currently designed to be used in the thermal infrared (ranging from 3 to 13 μm). Our AGPMs were first installed on VLT/NACO and VLT/VISIR in 2012, followed by LBT/LMIRCam in 2013 and Keck/NIRC2 in 2015. In this paper, we review the development, commissioning, on-sky performance, and early scientific results of these new coronagraphic modes and report on the lessons learned. We conclude with perspectives for future developments and applications. [less ▲]

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See detailNulling Data Reduction and On-sky Performance of the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer
Defrere, Denis ULg; Hinz, P. M.; Mennesson, B. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2016), 824

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) is a versatile instrument designed for high angular resolution and high-contrast infrared imaging (1.5-13 μm). In this paper, we focus on the mid ... [more ▼]

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) is a versatile instrument designed for high angular resolution and high-contrast infrared imaging (1.5-13 μm). In this paper, we focus on the mid-infrared (8-13 μm) nulling mode and present its theory of operation, data reduction, and on-sky performance as of the end of the commissioning phase in 2015 March. With an interferometric baseline of 14.4 m, the LBTI nuller is specifically tuned to resolve the habitable zone of nearby main-sequence stars, where warm exozodiacal dust emission peaks. Measuring the exozodi luminosity function of nearby main-sequence stars is a key milestone to prepare for future exo-Earth direct imaging instruments. Thanks to recent progress in wavefront control and phase stabilization, as well as in data reduction techniques, the LBTI demonstrated in 2015 February a calibrated null accuracy of 0.05% over a 3 hr long observing sequence on the bright nearby A3V star β Leo. This is equivalent to an exozodiacal disk density of 15-30 zodi for a Sun-like star located at 10 pc, depending on the adopted disk model. This result sets a new record for high-contrast mid-infrared interferometric imaging and opens a new window on the study of planetary systems. [less ▲]

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See detailVortex Image Processing (VIP) package for high-contrast direct imaging
Gómez González, Carlos ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Wertz, Olivier ULg et al

Poster (2016, May 16)

VIP is a Python instrument-agnostic toolbox featuring a flexible framework for reproducible and robust data reduction. VIP currently supports three high-contrast imaging observational techniques: angular ... [more ▼]

VIP is a Python instrument-agnostic toolbox featuring a flexible framework for reproducible and robust data reduction. VIP currently supports three high-contrast imaging observational techniques: angular, reference-star and multi-spectral differential imaging. The code can be downloaded from our git repository on Github: http://github.com/vortex-exoplanet/VIP [less ▲]

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See detailThe LEECH Exoplanet Imaging Survey: Orbit and Component Masses of the Intermediate-age, Late-type Binary NO UMa
Schlieder, Joshua E.; Skemer, Andrew J.; Maire, Anne-Lise et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2016), 818

We present high-resolution Large Binocular Telescope LBTI/LMIRcam images of the spectroscopic and astrometric binary NO UMa obtained as part of the LBT Interferometer Exozodi Exoplanet Common Hunt ... [more ▼]

We present high-resolution Large Binocular Telescope LBTI/LMIRcam images of the spectroscopic and astrometric binary NO UMa obtained as part of the LBT Interferometer Exozodi Exoplanet Common Hunt exoplanet imaging survey. Our H-, K[SUB]s[/SUB]-, and L‧-band observations resolve the system at angular separations <0.″09. The components exhibit significant orbital motion over a span of ∼7 months. We combine our imaging data with archival images, published speckle interferometry measurements, and existing spectroscopic velocity data to solve the full orbital solution and estimate component masses. The masses of the K2.0 ± 0.5 primary and K6.5 ± 0.5 secondary are 0.83 ± 0.02 M[SUB]⊙[/SUB] and 0.64 ± 0.02 M[SUB]⊙[/SUB], respectively. We also derive a system distance of d = 25.87 ± 0.02 pc and revise the Galactic kinematics of NO UMa. Our revised Galactic kinematics confirm NO UMa as a nuclear member of the ∼500 Myr old Ursa Major moving group, and it is thus a mass and age benchmark. We compare the masses of the NO UMa binary components to those predicted by five sets of stellar evolution models at the age of the Ursa Major group. We find excellent agreement between our measured masses and model predictions with little systematic scatter between the models. NO UMa joins the short list of nearby, bright, late-type binaries having known ages and fully characterized orbits. Based on data obtained with the STELLA robotic telescope in Tenerife, an AIP facility jointly operated by AIP and IAC. [less ▲]

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See detailTwo Small Temperate Planets Transiting Nearby M Dwarfs in K2 Campaigns 0 and 1
Schlieder, Joshua E.; Crossfield, Ian J. M.; Petigura, Erik A. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2016), 818

The prime Kepler mission revealed that small planets (<4 {R}[SUB]\oplus [/SUB]) are common, especially around low-mass M dwarfs. K2, the repurposed Kepler mission, continues this exploration of small ... [more ▼]

The prime Kepler mission revealed that small planets (<4 {R}[SUB]\oplus [/SUB]) are common, especially around low-mass M dwarfs. K2, the repurposed Kepler mission, continues this exploration of small planets around small stars. Here we combine K2 photometry with spectroscopy, adaptive optics imaging, and archival survey images to analyze two small planets orbiting the nearby field-age M dwarfs, K2-26 (EPIC 202083828) and K2-9. K2-26 is an {{M}}1.0+/- 0.5 dwarf at 93 ± 7 pc from K2 Campaign 0. We validate its planet with a day period of 14.5665 and estimate a radius of {2.67}[SUB]-0.42[/SUB][SUP]+0.46[/SUP] {R}[SUB]\oplus [/SUB]. K2-9 is an {{M}}2.5+/- 0.5 dwarf at 110 ± 12 pc from K2 Campaign 1. K2-9b was first identified by Montet et al.; here we present spectra and adaptive optics imaging of the host star and independently validate and characterize the planet. Our analyses indicate K2-9b is a {2.25}[SUB]-0.96[/SUB][SUP]+0.53[/SUP] {R}[SUB]\oplus [/SUB] planet with a 18.4498 day period. K2-26b exhibits a transit duration that is too long to be consistent with a circular orbit given its measured stellar radius. Thus, the long transits are likely due to the photoeccentric effect and our transit fits hint at an eccentric orbit. Both planets receive low incident flux from their host stars and have estimated equilibrium temperatures <500 K. K2-9b may receive approximately Earth-like insolation. However, its host star exhibits strong GALEX UV emission which could affect any atmosphere it harbors. K2-26b and K2-9b are representatives of a poorly studied class of small planets with cool temperatures that have radii intermediate to Earth and Neptune. Future study of these systems can provide key insight into trends in bulk composition and atmospheric properties at the transition from silicate dominated to volatile rich bodies. Based on observations collected at the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, La Silla Observatory, Chile during program ID 194.C-0443. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Inner Debris Structure in the Fomalhaut Planetary System
Su, Kate Y. L.; Rieke, George H.; Defrere, Denis ULg et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2016), 818

Fomalhaut plays an important role in the study of debris disks and small bodies in other planetary systems. The proximity and luminosity of the star make key features of its debris, like the water ice ... [more ▼]

Fomalhaut plays an important role in the study of debris disks and small bodies in other planetary systems. The proximity and luminosity of the star make key features of its debris, like the water ice line, accessible. Here we present ALMA cycle 1, 870 μm (345 GHz) observations targeted at the inner part of the Fomalhaut system with a synthesized beam of 0.″45 × 0.″37 (˜3 AU linear resolution at the distance of Fomalhaut) and an rms of 26 μJy beam[SUP]-1[/SUP]. The high angular resolution and sensitivity of the ALMA data enable us to place strong constraints on the nature of the warm excess revealed by Spitzer and Herschel observations. We detect a point source at the star position with a total flux consistent with thermal emission from the stellar photosphere. No structures that are brighter than 3σ are detected in the central 15 AU × 15 AU region. Modeling the spectral energy distribution using parameters expected for a dust-producing planetesimal belt indicates a radial location in the range of ˜8-15 AU. This is consistent with the location where ice sublimates in Fomalhaut, i.e., an asteroid-belt analog. The 3σ upper limit for such a belt is <1.3 mJy at 870 μm. We also interpret the 2 and 8-13 μm interferometric measurements to reveal the structure in the inner 10 AU region as dust naturally connected to this proposed asteroid belt by Poynting-Robertson drag, dust sublimation, and magnetically trapped nanograins. Fomalhaut is a triple system; here we refer to the Fomalhaut planetary system as the one around the primary star Fomalhaut A. [less ▲]

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See detailModels of the η Corvi Debris Disk from the Keck Interferometer, Spitzer, and Herschel
Lebreton, J.; Beichman, C.; Bryden, G. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2016), 817

Debris disks are signposts of analogs to small-body populations of the solar system, often, however, with much higher masses and dust production rates. The disk associated with the nearby star η Crv is ... [more ▼]

Debris disks are signposts of analogs to small-body populations of the solar system, often, however, with much higher masses and dust production rates. The disk associated with the nearby star η Crv is especially striking, as it shows strong mid- and far-infrared excesses despite an age of ∼1.4 Gyr. We undertake constructing a consistent model of the system that can explain a diverse collection of spatial and spectral data. We analyze Keck Interferometer Nuller measurements and revisit Spitzer and additional spectrophotometric data, as well as resolved Herschel images, to determine the dust spatial distribution in the inner exozodi and in the outer belt. We model in detail the two-component disk and the dust properties from the sub-AU scale to the outermost regions by fitting simultaneously all measurements against a large parameter space. The properties of the cold belt are consistent with a collisional cascade in a reservoir of ice-free planetesimals at 133 AU. It shows marginal evidence for asymmetries along the major axis. KIN enables us to establish that the warm dust consists of a ring that peaks between 0.2 and 0.8 AU. To reconcile this location with the ∼400 K dust temperature, very high albedo dust must be invoked, and a distribution of forsterite grains starting from micron sizes satisfies this criterion, while providing an excellent fit to the spectrum. We discuss additional constraints from the LBTI and near-infrared spectra, and we present predictions of what James Webb Space Telescope can unveil about this unusual object and whether it can detect unseen planets. [less ▲]

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