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Systemic - Characterizing Extrasolar Planetary Systems

Radius Anomalies

1 Aug 2010, 04:20 UTC
Radius Anomalies
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The radii of the transiting extrasolar planets have been the source of a lot of consternation. It’s very hard to tell the mass of a planet simply by looking at how large it is.
In our own solar system, there’s a well-delineated correlation between planetary size and planetary mass, with the only modest exception being Uranus and Neptune. Uranus has the larger radius and Neptune has the larger mass. With the extrasolar planets, on the other hand, the situation is notoriously less clear-cut. Transiting planets, with HD 209458b providing the textbook example, are often considerably larger than expected, hinting at a cryptic energy source.
With the WASP and the HAT surveys firing on all cylinders, the catalog of well-categorized transiting planets has been growing quite rapidly. There are now close to 90 planets with reasonably well determined masses and radii, so I thought it’d be interesting to take stock of the catalog with an eye toward evaluating how bad the radius problem really is.
Back in 2003, Peter Bodenheimer and Doug Lin and I did a series of planet evolution calculations which solved for the equilibrium radii of giant planets made from hydrogen and helium (and both with and without ...

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