Evidence that the Directly-Imaged Planet HD 131399 Ab is a Background Star [EPA]


We present evidence that the recently discovered, directly-imaged planet HD 131399 Ab is a background star with non-zero proper motion. From new JHK1L’ photometry and spectroscopy obtained with the Gemini Planet Imager, VLT/SPHERE, and Keck/NIRC2, and a reanalysis of the discovery data obtained with VLT/SPHERE, we derive colors, spectra, and astrometry for HD 131399 Ab. The broader wavelength coverage and higher data quality allow us to re-investigate its status. Its near-infrared spectral energy distribution excludes spectral types later than L0 and is consistent with a K or M dwarf, which are the most likely candidates for a background object in this direction at the apparent magnitude observed. If it were a physically associated object, the projected velocity of HD 131399 Ab would exceed escape velocity given the mass and distance to HD 131399 A. We show that HD 131399 Ab is also not following the expected track for a stationary background star at infinite distance. Solving for the proper motion and parallax required to explain the relative motion of HD 131399 Ab, we find a proper motion of 12.3 mas/yr. When compared to predicted background objects drawn from a galactic model, we find this proper motion to be high, but consistent with the top 4% fastest-moving background stars. From our analysis we conclude that HD 131399 Ab is a background K or M dwarf.

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E. Nielsen, R. Rosa, J. Rameau, et. al.
Mon, 22 May 17

Comments: 35 pages, 20 figures. Submitted to AJ

Evaporation of planetary atmospheres due to XUV illumination by quasars [EPA]


Planetary atmospheres are subject to mass loss through a variety of mechanisms including irradiation by XUV photons from their host star. Here we explore the consequences of XUV irradiation by supermassive black holes as they grow by the accretion of gas in galactic nuclei. Based on the mass distribution of stars in galactic bulges and disks and the luminosity history of individual black holes, we estimate the probability distribution function of XUV fluences as a function of galaxy halo mass, redshift, and stellar component. We find that about 50% of all planets in the universe may lose the equivalent of a Martian atmosphere, 10% may lose an Earth’s atmosphere, and 0.2% may lose the mass of Earth’s oceans. The fractions are appreciably higher in the spheroidal components of galaxies, and depend strongly on galaxy mass, but only weakly on redshift.

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J. Forbes and A. Loeb
Mon, 22 May 17

Comments: Submitted to MNRAS

A generalized approach to model the spectra and radiation dose rate of solar particle events on the surface of Mars [EPA]


For future human missions to Mars, it is important to study the surface radiation environment during extreme and elevated conditions. In the long term, it is mainly Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) modulated by solar activity that contributes to the radiation on the surface of Mars, but intense solar energetic particle (SEP) events may induce acute health effects. Such events may enhance the radiation level significantly and should be detected as immediately as possible to prevent severe damage to humans and equipment. However, the energetic particle environment on the Martian surface is significantly different from that in deep space due to the influence of the Martian atmosphere, and, to a lesser extent, the regolith. Depending on the intensity and shape of the original solar particle spectra as well as particle types, the surface spectra may induce entirely different radiation effects. For instance, an intense SEP event with a soft spectrum that would be hazardous on the lunar surface may, in contrast, induce only low levels of radiation on the Martian surface that would be well within human health tolerances. In order to give immediate and accurate alerts while avoiding unnecessary ones, it is important to model and well understand the atmospheric effect on the incoming SEPs including both protons and helium ions. In this paper, we have developed a generalized approach to quickly model the surface response of any given incoming proton/helium ion spectra and have applied it to a set of historical large solar events, thus providing insights into the possible variety of surface radiation environments that may be induced during SEP events.

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J. Guo, C. Zeitlin, R. Wimmer-Schweingruber, et. al.
Mon, 22 May 17

Comments: N/A

Analytic Expressions for the Inner-Rim Structure of Passively Heated Protoplanetary Disks [EPA]


We analytically derive the expressions for the structure of the inner region of protoplanetary disks based on the results from the recent hydrodynamical simulations. The inner part of a disk can be divided into four regions: dust-free region with gas temperature in the optically thin limit, optically thin dust halo, optically thick condensation front and the classical optically thick region in order from the inside. We derive the dust-to-gas mass ratio profile in the dust halo using the fact that partial dust condensation regulates the temperature to the dust evaporation temperature. Beyond the dust halo, there is an optically thick condensation front where all the available silicate gas condenses out. The curvature of the condensation surface is determined by the condition that the surface temperature must be nearly equal to the characteristic temperature $\sim 1200{\,\rm K}$. We derive the mid-plane temperature in the outer two regions using the two-layer approximation with the additional heating by the condensation front for the outermost region. As a result, the overall temperature profile is step-like with steep gradients at the borders between the outer three regions. The borders might act as planet traps where the inward migration of planets due to gravitational interaction with the gas disk stops. The temperature at the border between the two outermost regions coincides with the temperature needed to activate magnetorotational instability, suggesting that the inner edge of the dead zone must lie at this border. The radius of the dead-zone inner edge predicted from our solution is $\sim$ 2-3 times larger than that expected from the classical optically thick temperature.

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T. Ueda, S. Okuzumi and M. Flock
Mon, 22 May 17

Comments: 9 pages, 7 figures, accepted for ApJ

Exoplanet Biosignatures: Observational Prospects [EPA]


We provide an overview of the prospects for biosignature detection and general characterization of temperate Earth-sized planets. We review planned space-based missions and ground-based projects as well as the basic methods they will employ, and summarize which exoplanet properties will become observable as these new facilities come on line. The observational strategies depend on whether the planets are transiting or not as well as on the spectral type of the host star. There is a reasonable expectation that the first constraints on spectroscopic features of atmospheres will be obtained before 2030. Successful initial characterization of a few nearby targets will be an important touchstone toward a more detailed scrutiny and/or a larger survey to address statistical questions such as the occurrence rate of habitable environments. The broad outlook which this paper presents may help develop a framework to evaluate the possibility of biospheres based on the observables, and consider new methodologies to characterize exoplanets of astrobiological interest.

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Y. Fujii, D. Angerhausen, R. Deitrick, et. al.
Mon, 22 May 17

Comments: 60 pages, 2 tables, 6 figures, part of a series of 5 review manuscripts of the NExSS Exoplanet Biosgnatures Workshop, open for community comment at this https URL

Identifying and Analysing Protostellar Disc Fragments in Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics Simulations [EPA]


We present a new method of identifying protostellar disc fragments in a simulation based on density derivatives, and analyse our data using this and the existing CLUMPFIND method, which is based on an ordered search over all particles in gravitational potential energy. Using smoothed particle hydrodynamics, we carry out 9 simulations of a $0.25$ M${\odot}$ disc around a 1 M${\odot}$ star, all of which fragment to form at least 2 bound objects. We find that when using all particles ordered in gravitational potential space, only fragments that survive the duration of the simulation are detected. When we use the density derivative method, all fragments are detected, so the two methods are complementary, as using the two methods together allows us to identify all fragments, and to then determine those that are likely to be destroyed. We find a tentative empirical relationship between the dominant azimuthal wavenumber in the disc $m$ and the maximum semi-major axis a fragment may achieve in a simulation, such that $a_{\mathrm{max}}\propto\frac{1}{m}$. We find the fragment destruction rate to be around half that predicted from population synthesis models. This is due to fragment-fragment interactions in the early gas phase of the disc, which can cause scattering and eccentricity pumping on short timescales, and affects the fragment’s internal structure. We therefore caution that measurements of eccentricity as a function of semi-major axis may not necessarily constrain the formation mechanism of giant planets and brown dwarfs.

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C. Hall, D. Forgan and K. Rice
Fri, 19 May 17

Comments: 22 pages, 22 figures

Exoplanet Biosignatures: A Framework for Their Assessment [EPA]


Finding life on exoplanets from telescopic observations is the ultimate goal of exoplanet science. Life produces gases and other substances, such as pigments, which can have distinct spectral or photometric signatures. Whether or not life is found in future data must be expressed with probabilities, requiring a framework for biosignature assessment. We present such a framework, which advocates using biogeochemical “Exo-Earth System” models to simulate potentially biogenic spectral or photometric data. Given actual observations, these simulations are then used to find the Bayesian likelihoods of those data occurring for scenarios with and without life. The latter includes “false positives” where abiotic sources mimic biosignatures. Prior knowledge of factors influencing inhabitance, including previous observations, is combined with the likelihoods to give the probability of life existing on a given exoplanet. Four components of observation and analysis are used. 1) Characterization of stellar (e.g., age and spectrum) and exoplanetary system properties, including “external” exoplanet parameters (e.g., mass and radius) to determine its suitability for life. 2) Characterization of “internal” exoplanet parameters (e.g., climate) to evaluate whether an exoplanet surface can host life. 3) Assessment of potential biosignatures through environmental context (components 1-2) and corroborating evidence. 4) Exclusion of false positives. The resulting Bayesian probabilities of life detection map to five confidence levels, ranging from “very likely” to “very unlikely” inhabited.

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D. Catling, J. Krissansen-Totton, N. Kiang, et. al.
Fri, 19 May 17

Comments: Part of a NASA Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) series of 5 papers, to be submitted to Astrobiology. Comments welcome. 42 pages, 2 figures, 6 tables