The thermal emission of Centaurs and Trans-Neptunian objects at millimeter wavelengths from ALMA observations [EPA]

The sensitivity of ALMA makes it possible to detect thermal mm/submm emission from small/distant Solar System bodies at the sub-mJy level. Measured fluxes are primarily sensitive to the objects’ diameters, but deriving precise sizes is somewhat hampered by the uncertain effective emissivity at these wavelengths. Following Brown and Butler (2017) who presented ALMA data for four binary TNOs, we report ALMA 1.29 mm measurements of four Centaurs (2002 GZ$_{32}$, Bienor, Chiron, Chariklo) and two TNOs (Huya and Makemake), sampling a range of size, albedo and composition. These thermal fluxes are combined with mid/far-infrared fluxes to derive the relative emissivity at radio (mm/submm) wavelengths, using NEATM and thermophysical models. We reassess earlier thermal measurements of these and other objects — including Pluto/Charon and Varuna — exploring effects due to non-spherical shape and varying apparent pole orientation, and show that those can be key for reconciling previous diameter determinations and correctly estimating the spectral emissivities. We also evaluate the possible contribution to thermal fluxes of established (Chariklo) or claimed (Chiron) ring systems. As a general conclusion, all the objects, except Makemake, have radio emissivities significantly lower than unity. Although the emissivity values show diversity, we do not find any significant trend with physical parameters such as diameter, composition, beaming factor, albedo, or color, but we suggest that the emissivity could be correlated with grain size. The mean relative radio emissivity is found to be 0.70$\pm$0.13, a value that we recommend for the analysis of further mm/submm data.

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E. Lellouch, R. Moreno, T. Muller, et. al.
Thu, 21 Sep 17

Comments: 21 pages, 11 figures. Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 20 Sept. 2017

Binary stripping as a plausible origin of correlated pairs of extreme trans-Neptunian objects [EPA]

Asteroids that follow similar orbits may have a dynamical connection as their current paths could be the result of a past interaction with a massive perturber. The pair of extreme trans-Neptunian objects or ETNOs (474640) 2004 VN112-2013 RF98 exhibits peculiar relative orbital properties, including a difference in longitude of the ascending node of just 1.61 degrees and 3.99 degrees in inclination. In addition, their reflectance spectra are similar in the visible portion of the spectrum. The origin of these similarities remains unclear. Neglecting observational bias, viable scenarios that could explain this level of coincidence include fragmentation and binary dissociation. Here, we present results of extensive direct N-body simulations of close encounters between wide binary ETNOs and one trans-Plutonian planet. We find that wide binary ETNOs can dissociate during such interactions and the relative orbital properties of the resulting unbound couples match reasonably well those of several pairs of known ETNOs, including 474640-2013 RF98. The possible presence of former binaries among the known ETNOs has strong implications for the interpretation of the observed anisotropies in the distributions of the directions of their orbital poles and perihelia.

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C. Marcos, R. Marcos and S. Aarseth
Thu, 21 Sep 17

Comments: 21 pages, 13 figures, 1 table, accepted for publication in Astrophysics and Space Science (19 Sep 2017)

Out-of-Transit Refracted Light in the Atmospheres of Transiting and Non-Transiting Exoplanets [EPA]

Before an exoplanet transit, atmospheric refraction bends light into the line of sight of an observer. The refracted light forms a stellar mirage, a distorted secondary image of the host star. I model this phenomenon and the resultant out-of-transit flux increase across a comprehensive exoplanetary parameter space. At visible wavelengths, Rayleigh scattering limits the detectability of stellar mirages in most exoplanetary systems with semi-major axes $\lesssim$6 AU. A notable exception is almost any planet orbiting a late M or ultra-cool dwarf star at $\gtrsim$0.5 AU, where the maximum relative flux increase is greater than 50 parts-per-million. Based partly on previous work, I propose that the importance of refraction in an exoplanet system is governed by two angles: the orbital distance divided by the stellar radius and the total deflection achieved by a ray in the optically thin portion of the atmosphere. Atmospheric lensing events caused by non-transiting exoplanets, which allow for exoplanet detection and atmospheric characterization, are also investigated. I derive the basic formalism to determine the total signal-to-noise ratio of an atmospheric lensing event, with application to Kepler data. It is unlikely that out-of-transit refracted light signals are clearly present in Kepler data due to Rayleigh scattering and the bias toward short-period exoplanets. However, observations at long wavelengths (e.g., the near-infrared) are significantly more likely to detect stellar mirages. Lastly, I discuss the potential for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite to detect refracted light and consider novel science cases enabled by refracted light spectra from the James Webb Space Telescope.

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P. Dalba
Thu, 21 Sep 17

Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJ. 18 pages, 9 figures. Ray tracing code is available at

Detecting transit signatures of exoplanetary rings using SOAP3.0 [EPA]

CONTEXT. It is theoretically possible for rings to have formed around extrasolar planets in a similar way to that in which they formed around the giant planets in our solar system. However, no such rings have been detected to date.
AIMS: We aim to test the possibility of detecting rings around exoplanets by investigating the photometric and spectroscopic ring signatures in high-precision transit signals.
METHODS: The photometric and spectroscopic transit signals of a ringed planet is expected to show deviations from that of a spherical planet. We used these deviations to quantify the detectability of rings. We present SOAP3.0 which is a numerical tool to simulate ringed planet transits and measure ring detectability based on amplitudes of the residuals between the ringed planet signal and best fit ringless model.
RESULTS: We find that it is possible to detect the photometric and spectroscopic signature of near edge-on rings especially around planets with high impact parameter. Time resolution $\leq$ 7 mins is required for the photometric detection, while 15 mins is sufficient for the spectroscopic detection. We also show that future instruments like CHEOPS and ESPRESSO, with precisions that allow ring signatures to be well above their noise-level, present good prospects for detecting rings.

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B. Akinsanmi, M. Oshagh, N. Santos, et. al.
Wed, 20 Sep 17

Comments: 13 pages, 16 figures, 2 tables , accepted for publication in A&A

Ground-based astrometry calibrated by Gaia DR1: new perspectives in asteroid orbit determination [EPA]

The Gaia Data Release 1 (GDR1) is a first, important step on the path of evolution of astrometric accuracy towards a much improved situation. Although asteroids are not present in GDR1, this intermediate release already impacts asteroid astrometry. Our goal is to investigate how the GDR1 can change the approach to a few typical problems, including the determination of orbits from short-arc astrometry, the exploitation of stellar occultations, and the impact risk assessment. We employ optimised asteroid orbit determination tools, and study the resulting orbit accuracy and post-fit residuals. For this goal, we use selected ground-based asteroid astrometry, and occultation events observed in the past. All measurements are calibrated by using GDR1 stars. We show that, by adopting GDR1, very short measurement arcs can already provide interesting orbital solutions, capable of correctly identifying Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and providing a much more accurate risk rating. We also demonstrate that occultations, previously used to derive asteroid size and shapes, now reach a new level of accuracy at which they can be fruitfully used to obtain astrometry at the level of accuracy of Gaia star positions.

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F. Spoto, P. Tanga, S. Bouquillon, et. al.
Wed, 20 Sep 17

Comments: N/A

The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect in Exoplanet Research [EPA]

The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect occurs during a planet’s transit. It provides the main means of measuring the sky-projected spin-orbit angle between a planet’s orbital plane, and its host star’s equatorial plane. Observing the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect is now a near routine procedure. It is an important element in the orbital characterisation of transiting exoplanets. Measurements of the spin-orbit angle have revealed a surprising diversity, far from the placid, Kantian and Laplacian ideals, whereby planets form, and remain, on orbital planes coincident with their star’s equator. This chapter will review a short history of the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect, how it is modelled, and will summarise the current state of the field before describing other uses for a spectroscopic transit, and alternative methods of measuring the spin-orbit angle.

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A. Triaud
Wed, 20 Sep 17

Comments: Review to appear as a chapter in the “Handbook of Exoplanets”, ed. H. Deeg & J.A. Belmonte

Thermal Modeling of Comet-Like Objects from AKARI Observation [EPA]

We investigated the physical properties of the comet-like objects 107P/(4015) Wilson–Harrington (4015WH) and P/2006 HR30 (Siding Spring; HR30) by applying a simple thermophysical model (TPM) to the near-infrared spectroscopy and broadband observation data obtained by AKARI satellite of JAXA when they showed no detectable comet-like activity. We selected these two targets since the tendency of thermal inertia to decrease with the size of an asteroid, which has been demonstrated in recent studies, has not been confirmed for comet-like objects. It was found that 4015WH, which was originally discovered as a comet but has not shown comet-like activity since its discovery, has effective size $ D= $ 3.74–4.39 km and geometric albedo $ p_V \approx $ 0.040–0.055 with thermal inertia $ \Gamma = $ 100–250 J m$ ^{-2} $ K$ ^{-1} $ s$ ^{-1/2}$. The corresponding grain size is estimated to 1–3 mm. We also found that HR30, which was observed as a bare cometary nucleus at the time of our observation, have $ D= $ 23.9–27.1 km and $ p_V= $0.035–0.045 with $ \Gamma= $ 250–1,000 J m$ ^{-2} $ K$ ^{-1} $ s$ ^{-1/2}$. We conjecture the pole latitude $ – 20^{\circ} \lesssim \beta_s \lesssim +60^{\circ}$. The results for both targets are consistent with previous studies. Based on the results, we propose that comet-like objects are not clearly distinguishable from asteroidal counterpart on the $ D $–$ \Gamma $ plane.

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Y. Bach, M. Ishiguro and F. Usui
Wed, 20 Sep 17

Comments: 14 pages, 6 figures, accepted for publication to AJ