skip to main content

Title: On the detectability of transiting planets orbiting white dwarfs using LSST
ABSTRACT White dwarfs are one of the few types of stellar object for which we have yet to confirm the existence of companion planets. Recent evidence for metal contaminated atmospheres, circumstellar debris discs, and transiting planetary debris all indicates that planets may be likely. However, white dwarf transit surveys are challenging due to the intrinsic faintness of such objects, the short time-scale of the transits, and the low transit probabilities due to their compact radii. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) offers a remedy to these problems as a deep, half-sky survey with fast exposures encompassing approximately 10 million white dwarfs with r < 24.5 apparent magnitude (mr). We simulate LSST photometric observations of 3.5 million white dwarfs over a 10 yr period and calculate the detectability of companion planets with P < 10 d via transits. We find typical detection rates in the range of 5 × 10−6 to 4 × 10−4 for Ceres-sized bodies to Earth-sized worlds, yielding ∼50–$4000$ detections for a 100 per cent occurrence rate of each. For terrestrial planets in the continuously habitable zone, we find detection rates of ∼10−3 indicating that LSST would reveal hundreds of such worlds for occurrence rates in the range of 1–10 per cent.
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1695 to 1703
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT We report on the discovery and validation of a two-planet system around a bright (V  = 8.85 mag) early G dwarf (1.43  R⊙, 1.15  M⊙, TOI 2319) using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Three transit events from two planets were detected by citizen scientists in the month-long TESS light curve (sector 25), as part of the Planet Hunters TESS project. Modelling of the transits yields an orbital period of $11.6264 _{ - 0.0025 } ^ { + 0.0022 }$ d and radius of $3.41 _{ - 0.12 } ^ { + 0.14 }$ R⊕ for the inner planet, and a periodmore »in the range 19.26–35 d and a radius of $5.83 _{ - 0.14 } ^ { + 0.14 }$ R⊕ for the outer planet, which was only seen to transit once. Each signal was independently statistically validated, taking into consideration the TESS light curve as well as the ground-based spectroscopic follow-up observations. Radial velocities from HARPS-N and EXPRES yield a tentative detection of planet b, whose mass we estimate to be $11.56 _{ - 6.14 } ^ { + 6.58 }$ M⊕, and allow us to place an upper limit of 27.5 M⊕ (99 per cent confidence) on the mass of planet c. Due to the brightness of the host star and the strong likelihood of an extended H/He atmosphere on both planets, this system offers excellent prospects for atmospheric characterization and comparative planetology.« less
  2. Abstract We present the occurrence rates for rocky planets in the habitable zones (HZs) of main-sequence dwarf stars based on the Kepler DR25 planet candidate catalog and Gaia-based stellar properties. We provide the first analysis in terms of star-dependent instellation flux, which allows us to track HZ planets. We define η ⊕ as the HZ occurrence of planets with radii between 0.5 and 1.5 R ⊕ orbiting stars with effective temperatures between 4800 and 6300 K. We find that η ⊕ for the conservative HZ is between (errors reflect 68% credible intervals) and planets per star, while the optimistic HZmore »occurrence is between and planets per star. These bounds reflect two extreme assumptions about the extrapolation of completeness beyond orbital periods where DR25 completeness data are available. The large uncertainties are due to the small number of detected small HZ planets. We find similar occurrence rates between using Poisson likelihood Bayesian analysis and using Approximate Bayesian Computation. Our results are corrected for catalog completeness and reliability. Both completeness and the planet occurrence rate are dependent on stellar effective temperature. We also present occurrence rates for various stellar populations and planet size ranges. We estimate with 95% confidence that, on average, the nearest HZ planet around G and K dwarfs is ∼6 pc away and there are ∼4 HZ rocky planets around G and K dwarfs within 10 pc of the Sun.« less
  3. We quantify the frequency of companions of low-redshift (0.013 < z < 0.0252) dwarf galaxies (2 × 108 M⊙ < Mstar < 5 × 109 M⊙) that are isolated from more massive galaxies in SDSS and compare against cosmological expectations using mock observations of the Illustris simulation. Dwarf multiples are defined as two or more dwarfs that have angular separations >55 arcsec, projected separations rp < 150 kpc, and relative line-of-sight velocities ΔVLOS < 150 km s-1. While the mock catalogues predict a factor of two more isolated dwarfs than observed in SDSS, the mean number of observed companions permore »dwarf is Nc ˜ 0.04, in good agreement with Illustris when accounting for SDSS sensitivity limits. Removing these limits in the mock catalogues predicts Nc ˜ 0.06 for future surveys (LSST, DESI), which will be complete to Mstar = 2 × 108 M⊙. The 3D separations of mock dwarf multiples reveal a contamination fraction of ˜40 per cent in observations from projection effects. Most isolated multiples are pairs; triples are rare and it is cosmologically improbable that bound groups of dwarfs with more than three members exist within the parameter range probed in this study. We find that <1 per cent of LMC-analogues in the field have an SMC-analogue companion. The fraction of dwarf "Major Pairs" (stellar mass ratio >1:4) steadily increases with decreasing Primary stellar mass, whereas the cosmological "Major Merger rate" (per Gyr) has the opposite behaviour. We conclude that cosmological simulations can be reliably used to constrain the fraction of dwarf mergers across cosmic time.« less
  4. Abstract

    We present minute cadence photometry of 31 732 point sources observed in one 3 $\rm deg^{2}$ DECam pointing centred at RA = 09:03:02 and Dec. = −04:35:00 over eight consecutive half-nights. We use these data to search for eclipse-like events consistent with a planetary transit of a white dwarf and other sources of stellar variability within the field. We do not find any significant evidence for minute-long transits around our targets, hence we rule out planetary transits around ∼370 white dwarfs that should be present in this field. Additionally, we identify 49 variables, including 40 new systems. These include 23 detachedmore »or contact stellar binaries, one eclipsing white dwarf + M dwarf binary, 16 δ Scuti, three RR Lyrae, and two ZZ Ceti pulsators. Results from the remaining two fields in our survey will allow us to place more stringent constraints on the frequency of planets orbiting white dwarfs in the habitable zone.

    « less
  5. ABSTRACT The inwards scattering of planetesimals towards white dwarfs is expected to be a stochastic process with variability on human time-scales. The planetesimals tidally disrupt at the Roche radius, producing dusty debris detectable as excess infrared emission. When sufficiently close to the white dwarf, this debris sublimates and accretes on to the white dwarf and pollutes its atmosphere. Studying this infrared emission around polluted white dwarfs can reveal how this planetary material arrives in their atmospheres. We report a near-infrared monitoring campaign of 34 white dwarfs with infrared excesses with the aim to search for variability in the dust emission.more »Time series photometry of these white dwarfs from the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (Wide Field Camera) in the J-, H-, and K-bands was obtained over baselines of up to 3 yr. We find no statistically significant variation in the dust emission in all three near-infrared bands. Specifically, we can rule out variability at ∼1.3 per cent for the 13 white dwarfs brighter than 16th mag in K-band, and at ∼10 per cent for the 32 white dwarfs brighter than 18th mag over time-scales of 3 yr. Although to date two white dwarfs, SDSS J095904.69−020047.6 and WD 1226+110, have shown K-band variability, in our sample we see no evidence of new K-band variability at these levels. One interpretation is that the tidal disruption events that lead to large variabilities are rare occur on short time-scales, and after a few years the white dwarfs return to being stable in the near-infrared.« less