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Systemic - Characterizing Extrasolar Planetary Systems


17 Feb 2011, 20:09 UTC
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Last August, SFMOMA put on an exhibition that featured a number of Chuck Close’s hyperrealistic portraits. It was interesting to study the sudden transition between a patchwork of acrylic brush strokes, as in the cell-phone close-up snapshot just above, and an image that makes sense as a whole.

The recent public release of the Kepler data triggers an effect that’s a bit like stepping back rapidly from one of Close’s portraits. Suddenly, a huge swath of the planetary distribution connects with a larger picture. This effect holds especially true when one looks at the list of systems that harbor multiple transiting candidates.
With the census of radial velocity planets, it’s often quite difficult to determine whether a signal is originating from a single planet on an eccentric orbit, or a pair of planets participating in 2:1 resonance. The only really well-characterized unambiguously resonant RV system is Gliese 876, where the combination of large Ks, a long observational base, and rapidly unfolding 30-60-120d orbits has allowed the dynamics of the resonance to be revealed in detail.
The 115 Kepler two-transit systems indicate right away that systems like Gliese 876 are intrinsically rather rare. In the illustration below, I’ve taken each ...

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