A dearth of small particles in the transiting material around the white dwarf WD 1145+017 [EPA]


White dwarf WD 1145+017 is orbited by several clouds of dust, possibly emanating from actively disintegrating bodies. These dust clouds reveal themselves through deep, broad, and evolving transits in the star’s light curve. Here, we report two epochs of multi-wavelength photometric observations of WD 1145+017, including several filters in the optical, K$\mathrm{s}$ and 4.5 $\mu$m bands in 2016 and 2017. The observed transit depths are different at these wavelengths. However, after correcting for excess dust emission at K$\mathrm{s}$ and 4.5 $\mu$m, we find the transit depths for the white dwarf itself are the same at all wavelengths, at least to within the observational uncertainties of $\sim$5%-10%. From this surprising result, and under the assumption of low optical depth dust clouds, we conclude that there is a deficit of small particles (with radii $s \lesssim$ 1.5 $\mu$m) in the transiting material. We propose a model wherein only large particles can survive the high equilibrium temperature environment corresponding to 4.5 hr orbital periods around WD 1145+017, while small particles sublimate rapidly. In addition, we evaluate dust models that are permitted by our measurements of infrared emission.

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S. Xu, S. Rappaport, R. Lieshout, et. al.
Tue, 21 Nov 17

Comments: MNRAS, in press

Whole planet coupling between climate, mantle, and core: Implications for the evolution of rocky planets [EPA]


Earth’s climate, mantle, and core interact over geologic timescales. Climate influences whether plate tectonics can take place on a planet, with cool climates being favorable for plate tectonics because they enhance stresses in the lithosphere, suppress plate boundary annealing, and promote hydration and weakening of the lithosphere. Plate tectonics plays a vital role in the long-term carbon cycle, which helps to maintain a temperate climate. Plate tectonics provides long-term cooling of the core, which is vital for generating a magnetic field, and the magnetic field is capable of shielding atmospheric volatiles from the solar wind. Coupling between climate, mantle, and core can potentially explain the divergent evolution of Earth and Venus. As Venus lies too close to the sun for liquid water to exist, there is no long-term carbon cycle and thus an extremely hot climate. Therefore plate tectonics cannot operate and a long-lived core dynamo cannot be sustained due to insufficient core cooling. On planets within the habitable zone where liquid water is possible, a wide range of evolutionary scenarios can take place depending on initial atmospheric composition, bulk volatile content, or the timing of when plate tectonics initiates, among other factors. Many of these evolutionary trajectories would render the planet uninhabitable. However, there is still significant uncertainty over the nature of the coupling between climate, mantle, and core. Future work is needed to constrain potential evolutionary scenarios and the likelihood of an Earth-like evolution.

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B. Foley and P. Driscoll
Tue, 21 Nov 17

Comments: N/A

On the coplanar eccentric non restricted co-orbital dynamics [EPA]


We study the phase space of eccentric coplanar co-orbitals in the non-restricted case. Departing from the quasi-circular case, we describe the evolution of the phase space as the eccentricities increase. We find that over a given value of the eccentricity, around $0.5$ for equal mass co-orbitals, important topological changes occur in the phase space. These changes lead to the emergence of new co-orbital configurations and open a continuous path between the previously distinct trojan domains near the $L_4$ and $L_5$ eccentric Lagrangian equilibria. These topological changes are shown to be linked with the reconnection of families of quasi-periodic orbits of non-maximal dimension.

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A. Leleu, P. Robutel and A. Correia
Tue, 21 Nov 17

Comments: N/A

Influence of XUV Irradiation from Sgr A* on Planetary Habitability and Occurrence of Panspermia near the Galactic Center [EPA]


Black holes growing via the accretion of gas emit radiation that can photoevaporate the atmospheres of nearby planets. Here we couple planetary structural evolution models of sub-Neptune mass planets to the growth of the Milky way’s central supermassive black-hole, Sgr A$^$ and investigate how planetary evolution is influenced by quasar activity. We find that, out to ${\sim} 20$ pc from Sgr A$^$, the XUV flux emitted during its quasar phase can remove several percent of a planet’s H/He envelope by mass; in many cases, this removal results in bare rocky cores, many of which situated in the habitable zones (HZs) of G-type stars. The erosion of sub-Neptune sized planets may be one of the most prevalent channels by which terrestrial super-Earths are created near the Galactic Center. As such, the planet population demographics may be quite different close to Sgr A$^*$ than in the Galaxy’s outskirts. The high stellar densities in this region (about seven orders of magnitude greater than the solar neighborhood) imply that the distance between neighboring rocky worlds is short ($500-5000$~AU). The proximity between potentially habitable terrestrial planets may enable the onset of widespread interstellar panspermia near the nuclei of galaxies. More generally, we predict these phenomena to be ubiquitous for planets in nuclear star clusters (NSCs) and ultra-compact dwarfs (UCDs).

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H. Chen, J. Forbes and A. Loeb
Tue, 21 Nov 17

Comments: 9 pages, 4 figures, submitted to ApJL; comments welcome

ALMA observations of Elias 2-24: a protoplanetary disk with multiple gaps in the Ophiuchus Molecular Cloud [EPA]


We present ALMA 1.3 mm continuum observations at 0.2″ (25 au) resolution of Elias 2-24, one of the largest and brightest protoplanetary disks in the Ophiuchus Molecular Cloud, and report the presence of three partially resolved concentric gaps located at ~20, 52, and 87 au from the star. We perform radiative transfer modeling of the disk to constrain its surface density and temperature radial profile and place the disk structure in the context of mechanisms capable of forming narrow gaps such as condensation fronts and dynamical clearing by actively forming planets. In particular, we estimate the disk temperature at the locations of the gaps to be 23, 15, and 12 K (at 20, 52, and 87 au respectively), very close to the expected snow-lines of CO (23-28 K) and N2 (12-15 K). Similarly, by assuming that the widths of the gaps correspond to 4-8 x the Hill radii of forming planets (as suggested by numerical simulations), we estimate planet masses in the range of 0.2-1.5 M_Jup, 1.0-8.0 M_Jup, and 0.02-0.15 M_Jup for the inner, middle, and outer gap, respectively. Given the surface density profile of the disk, the amount of “missing mass” at the location of each one of these gaps (between 4 and 20 M_Jup) is more than sufficient to account for the formation of such planets.

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L. Cieza, S. Casassus, S. Perez, et. al.
Tue, 21 Nov 17

Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJ Letters

Thermal conductivity of porous aggregates [EPA]


$\mathit{Context.}$ The thermal conductivity of highly porous dust aggregates is a key parameter for many subjects in planetary science; however, it is not yet fully understood. $\mathit{Aims.}$ In this study, we investigate the thermal conductivity of fluffy dust aggregates with filling factors of less than $10^{-1}$. $\mathit{Methods.}$ We determine the temperature structure and heat flux of the porous dust aggregates calculated by $N$-body simulations of static compression in the periodic boundary condition. $\mathit{Results.}$ We derive an empirical formula for the thermal conductivity through the solid network $k_{\rm sol}$ as a function of the filling factor of dust aggregates $\phi$. The results reveal that $k_{\rm sol}$ is approximately proportional to ${\phi}^{2}$, and the thermal conductivity through the solid network is significantly lower than previously assumed. In light of these findings, we must reconsider the thermal histories of small planetary bodies.

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S. Arakawa, H. Tanaka, A. Kataoka, et. al.
Mon, 20 Nov 17

Comments: 4 pages, 4 figures. Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics

Transient events in bright debris discs: Collisional avalanches revisited [EPA]


A collisional avalanche is set off by the breakup of a large planetesimal, releasing small unbound grains that enter a debris disc located further away from the star, triggering there a collisional chain reaction that can potentially create detectable transient structures. We explore this mechanism, using for the first time a code coupling dynamical and collisional evolutions, and investigate if avalanches could explain the short-term luminosity variations observed in some extremely bright discs. We consider two set-ups: a cold disc case, with a dust release at 10au and an outer disc extending from 50 to 120au, and a warm disc case with the release at 1au and a 5-12au outer disc. We find that avalanches could leave detectable structures on resolved images, for both cold and warm disc cases, in discs with optical depth $\tau$ of a few $10^{-3}$, provided that large dust masses ($\gtrsim$10$^{20}$-5$\times$10$^{22}$g) are initially released. The integrated photometric excess due to an avalanche is limited, less than 10% for these released dust masses, peaking in the mid-IR and becoming insignificant beyond $\sim$40-50$\mu$m. Contrary to earlier studies, we do not obtain stronger avalanches when increasing $\tau$ to higher values. Likewise, we do not observe a significant luminosity deficit, as compared to the pre-avalanche level, after the passage of the avalanche. These two results concur to make avalanches an unlikely explanation for the sharp luminosity drops observed in some extremely bright debris discs. The ideal configuration for observing an avalanche would be a two-belt structure, with an inner belt of fractional luminosity >10$^{-4}$ where breakups of massive planetesimals occur, and a more massive outer belt, with $\tau$ of a few $10^{-3}$, into which the avalanche chain reaction develops and propagates.

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P. Thebault and Q. Kral
Mon, 20 Nov 17

Comments: Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics (abstract drastically shortened to meet astro-ph requirements)