Behavioral Characteristics and CO+CO2 Production Rates of Halley-Type Comets Observed by NEOWISE [EPA]

From the entire dataset of comets observed by NEOWISE, we have analyzed 11 different Halley-Type Comets (HTCs) for dust production rates, CO+CO2 production rates, and nucleus sizes. Incorporating HTCs from previous studies and multiple comet visits we have a total of 21 stacked visits, 13 of which are active and 8 for which we calculated upper limits of production. We determined the nucleus sizes of 27P, P/2006 HR30, P/2012 NJ, and C/2016 S1. Furthermore, we analyzed the relationships between dust production and heliocentric distance, and gas production and heliocentric distance. We concluded that for this population of HTCs, ranging in heliocentric distance from 1.21 AU to 2.66 AU, there was no significant correlation between dust production and heliocentric distance, nor gas production and heliocentric distance.

Read this paper on arXiv…

J. Rosser, J. Bauer, A. Mainzer, et. al.
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: N/A

UKIRT-2017-BLG-001Lb: A giant planet detected through the dust [EPA]

We report the discovery of a giant planet in event UKIRT-2017-BLG-001, detected by the UKIRT microlensing survey. The mass ratio between the planet and its host is $q=1.50_{-0.14}^{+0.17}\times10^{-3}$, about 1.5 times the Jupiter/Sun mass ratio. The event lies 0.35$^{\circ}$ from the Galactic center and suffers from high extinction of $A_K=1.68$. Therefore, it could be detected only by a near-infrared survey. The field also suffers from large spatial differential extinction, which makes it difficult to estimate the source properties required to derive the angular Einstein radius. Nevertheless, we show that the source is most likely located in the far disk. If correct, this would be the first source star of a microlensing event to be identified as belonging to the far disk. We estimate the lens mass and distance using a Bayesian analysis to find that the planet’s mass is $1.47^{+0.59}{-0.56}\,M{J}$, and it orbits a $0.93^{+0.36}{-0.34}\,M{\odot}$ star at an instantaneous projected separation of $4.5^{+1.1}{-1.0}$ AU. The system is at a distance of $6.6^{+1.6}{-2.1}$ kpc, and so likely resides in the Galactic bulge. In addition, we find a non-standard extinction curve in this field, in agreement with previous results towards high-extinction fields near the Galactic center.

Read this paper on arXiv…

Y. Shvartzvald, S. Novati, B. Gaudi, et. al.
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: 25 pages, 7 figures, 2 tables. Submitted to the AAS journals

New polarimetric and spectroscopic evidence of anomalous enrichment in spinel-bearing Calcium-Aluminium-rich Inclusions among L-type asteroids [EPA]

Asteroids can be classified into several groups based on their spectral reflectance. Among these groups, the one belonging to the L-class in the taxonomic classification based on visible and near-infrared spectra exhibit several peculiar properties. First, their near-infrared spectrum is characterized by a strong absorption band interpreted as the diagnostic of a high content of the FeO bearing spinel mineral. This mineral is one of the main constituents of Calcium-Aluminum-rich Inclusions (CAI) the oldest mineral compounds found in the solar system. In polarimetry, they possess an uncommonly large value of the inversion angle incompatible with all known asteroid belonging to other taxonomical classes. Asteroids found to possess such a high inversion angle are commonly called Barbarians based on the first asteroid on which this property was first identified, (234)~Barbara. In this paper we present the results of an extensive campaign of polarimetric and spectroscopic observations of L-class objects. We have derived phase-polarization curves for a sample of 7 Barbarians, finding a variety of inversion angles ranging between 25 and 30$^{\circ}$. Spectral reflectance data exhibit variations in terms of spectral slope and absorption features in the near-infrared. We analyzed these data using a Hapke model to obtain some inferences about the relative abundance of CAI and other mineral compounds. By combining spectroscopic and polarimetric results, we find evidence that the polarimetric inversion angle is directly correlated with the presence of CAI, and the peculiar polarimetric properties of Barbarians are primarily a consequence of their anomalous composition.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Devogele, P. Tanga, A. Cellino, et. al.
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: 31 pages, 21 figures, 5 tables

Jupiter Analogues Orbit Stars with an Average Metallicity Close to that of the Sun [EPA]

Jupiter played an important role in determining the structure and configuration of the Solar System. Whereas hot-Jupiter type exoplanets preferentially form around metal-rich stars, the conditions required for the formation of planets with masses, orbits and eccentricities comparable to Jupiter (Jupiter analogues) are unknown. Using spectroscopic metallicities, we show that stars hosting Jupiter analogues have an average metallicity close to solar, in contrast to their hot-Jupiter and eccentric cool Jupiter counterparts, which orbit stars with super-solar metallicities. Furthermore, the eccentricities of Jupiter analogues increase with host star metallicity, suggesting that planet-planet scatterings producing highly eccentric cool Jupiters could be more common in metal-rich environments. To investigate a possible explanation for these metallicity trends, we compare the observations to numerical simulations, which indicate that metal-rich stars typically form multiple Jupiters, leading to planet-planet interactions and, hence, a prevalence of either eccentric cool Jupiters or hot-Jupiters with circularized orbits. Although the samples are small and exhibit variations in their metallicities, suggesting that numerous processes other than metallicity affect the formation of planetary systems, the data in hand suggests that Jupiter analogues and terrestrial-sized planets form around stars with average metallicities close to solar, whereas high metallicity systems preferentially host eccentric cool Jupiter or hot-Jupiters, indicating higher metallicity systems may not be favorable for the formation of planetary systems akin to the Solar System.

Read this paper on arXiv…

L. Buchhave, B. Bitsch, A. Johansen, et. al.
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: Accepted in ApJ

The Habitable Zone of Kepler-16: Impact of Binarity and Climate Models [EPA]

We continue to investigate the binary system Kepler-16, consisting of a K-type main-sequence star, a red dwarf, and a circumbinary Saturnian planet. As part of our study, we describe the system’s habitable zone based on different climate models. We also report on stability investigations for possible Earth-mass Trojans while expanding a previous study by B. L. Quarles and collaborators given in 2012. For the climate models we carefully consider the relevance of the system’s parameters. Furthermore, we pursue new stability simulations for the Earth-mass objects starting along the orbit of Kepler-16b. The eccentricity distribution as obtained prefers values close to circular, whereas the inclination distribution remains flat. The stable solutions are distributed near the co-orbital Lagrangian points, thus enhancing the plausibility that Earth-mass Trojans might be able to exist in the Kepler-16(AB) system.

Read this paper on arXiv…

S. Moorman, B. Quarles, Z. Wang, et. al.
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: Accepted by: International Journal of Astrobiology; 30 pages, 11 figures, 8 tables

The Habitability of our Evolving Galaxy [EPA]

The notion of a Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ), or regions of the Milky Way galaxy that preferentially maintain the conditions to sustain complex life, has recently gained attention due to the detection of numerous exoplanets and advances made in understanding habitability on the Earth and other environments. We discuss what a habitable environment means on large spatial and temporal scales, which necessarily requires an approximated definition of habitability to make an assessment of the astrophysical conditions that may sustain complex life. We discuss a few key exoplanet findings that directly relate to estimating the distribution of Earth-size planets in the Milky Way. With a broad notion of habitability defined and major observable properties of the Milky Way described, we compare selected literature on the GHZ and postulate why the models yield differing predictions of the most habitable regions at the present day, which include: (1) the majority of the galactic disk; (2) an annular ring between 7-9 kpc, and (3) the galactic outskirts. We briefly discuss the habitability of other galaxies as influenced by these studies. We note that the dangers to biospheres in the Galaxy taken into account in these studies may be incomplete and we discuss the possible role of Gamma-Ray Bursts and other dangers to life in the Milky Way. We speculate how changing astrophysical properties may affect the GHZ over time, including before the Earth formed, and describe how new observations and other related research may fit into the bigger picture of the habitability of the Galaxy.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Gowanlock and I. Morrison
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: Chapter in Habitability of the Universe Before Earth, R. Gordon and A. Sharov (Eds.), Elsevier

exocartographer: A Bayesian Framework for Mapping Exoplanets in Reflected Light [EPA]

Future space telescopes will directly image extrasolar planets at visible wavelengths. Time-resolved reflected light from an exoplanet encodes information about atmospheric and surface inhomogeneities. Previous research has shown that the light curve of an exoplanet can be inverted to obtain a low-resolution map of the planet, as well as constraints on its spin orientation. Estimating the uncertainty on 2D albedo maps has so far remained elusive. Here we present exocartographer, a flexible open-source Bayesian framework for solving the exo-cartography inverse problem. The map is parameterized with equal-area HEALPix pixels. For a fiducial map resolution of 192 pixels, a four-parameter Gaussian process describing the spatial scale of albedo variations, and two unknown planetary spin parameters, exocartographer explores a 198-dimensional parameter space. To test the code, we produce a light curve for a cloudless Earth in a face-on orbit with a 90$^\circ$ obliquity. We produce synthetic white light observations of the planet: 5 epochs of observations throughout the planet’s orbit, each consisting of 24 hourly observations with a photometric uncertainty of $1\%$ (120 data). We retrieve an albedo map and$-$for the first time$-$its uncertainties, along with spin constraints. The albedo map is recognizably of Earth, with typical uncertainty of $30\%$. The retrieved characteristic length scale is 88$\pm 7 ^\circ$, or 9800 km. The obliquity is recovered with a $1-\sigma$ uncertainty of $0.8^\circ$. Despite the uncertainty in the retrieved albedo map, we robustly identify a high albedo region (the Sahara desert) and a large low-albedo region (the Pacific Ocean).

Read this paper on arXiv…

B. Farr, W. Farr, N. Cowan, et. al.
Wed, 21 Feb 18

Comments: 6 pages, 3 figures