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  1. Abstract

    Giant planets grow by accreting gas through circumplanetary disks, but little is known about the timescale and mechanisms involved in the planet-assembly process because few accreting protoplanets have been discovered. Recent visible and infrared imaging revealed a potential accreting protoplanet within the transition disk around the young intermediate-mass Herbig Ae star, AB Aurigae (AB Aur). Additional imaging in Hαprobed for accretion and found agreement between the line-to-continuum flux ratio of the star and companion, raising the possibility that the emission source could be a compact disk feature seen in scattered starlight. We present new deep Keck/NIRC2 high-contrast imaging of AB Aur to characterize emission in Paβ, another accretion tracer less subject to extinction. Our narrow band observations reach a 5σcontrast of 9.6 mag at 0.″6, but we do not detect significant emission at the expected location of the companion, nor from other any other source in the system. Our upper limit on Paβemission suggests that if AB Aur b is a protoplanet, it is not heavily accreting or accretion is stochastic and was weak during the observations.

     
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  2. Abstract

    We present a novel machine-learning approach for detecting faint point sources in high-contrast adaptive optics (AO) imaging data sets. The most widely used algorithms for primary subtraction aim to decouple bright stellar speckle noise from planetary signatures by subtracting an approximation of the temporally evolving stellar noise from each frame in an imaging sequence. Our approach aims to improve the stellar noise approximation and increase the planet detection sensitivity by leveraging deep learning in a novel direct imaging post-processing algorithm. We show that a convolutional autoencoder neural network, trained on an extensive reference library of real imaging sequences, accurately reconstructs the stellar speckle noise at the location of a potential planet signal. This tool is used in a post-processing algorithm we call Direct Exoplanet Detection with Convolutional Image Reconstruction, orConStruct. The reliability and sensitivity ofConStructare assessed using real Keck/NIRC2 angular differential imaging data sets. Of the 30 unique point sources we examine,ConStructyields a higher signal-to-noise ratio than traditional principal component analysis-based processing for 67% of the cases and improves the relative contrast by up to a factor of 2.6. This work demonstrates the value and potential of deep learning to take advantage of a diverse reference library of point-spread function realizations to improve direct imaging post-processing.ConStructand its future improvements may be particularly useful as tools for post-processing high-contrast images from JWST and extreme AO instruments, both for the current generation and those being designed for the upcoming 30 m class telescopes.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Dynamical masses of giant planets and brown dwarfs are critical tools for empirically validating substellar evolutionary models and their underlying assumptions. We present a measurement of the dynamical mass and an updated orbit of PZ Tel B, a young brown dwarf companion orbiting a late-G member of theβPic moving group. PZ Tel A exhibits an astrometric acceleration between Hipparcos and Gaia EDR3, which enables the direct determination of the companion’s mass. We have also acquired new Keck/NIRC2 adaptive optics imaging of the system, which increases the total baseline of relative astrometry to 15 yr. Our joint orbit fit yields a dynamical mass of279+25MJup, semimajor axis of274+14au, eccentricity of0.520.10+0.08, and inclination of91.730.32+0.36°. The companion’s mass is consistent within 1.1σof predictions from four grids of hot-start evolutionary models. The joint orbit fit also indicates a more modest eccentricity of PZ Tel B than previous results. PZ Tel joins a small number of young (<200 Myr) systems with benchmark substellar companions that have dynamical masses and precise ages from moving group membership.

     
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  4. Abstract

    AF Lep A+b is a remarkable planetary system hosting a gas-giant planet that has the lowest dynamical mass among directly imaged exoplanets. We present an in-depth analysis of the atmospheric composition of the star and planet to probe the planet’s formation pathway. Based on new high-resolution spectroscopy of AF Lep A, we measure a uniform set of stellar parameters and elemental abundances (e.g., [Fe/H] = −0.27 ± 0.31 dex). The planet’s dynamical mass (2.80.5+0.6MJup) and orbit are also refined using published radial velocities, relative astrometry, and absolute astrometry. We usepetitRADTRANSto perform chemically consistent atmospheric retrievals for AF Lep b. The radiative–convective equilibrium temperature profiles are incorporated as parameterized priors on the planet’s thermal structure, leading to a robust characterization for cloudy self-luminous atmospheres. This novel approach is enabled by constraining the temperature–pressure profiles via the temperature gradient(dlnT/dlnP), a departure from previous studies that solely modeled the temperature. Through multiple retrievals performed on different portions of the 0.9–4.2μm spectrophotometry, along with different priors on the planet’s mass and radius, we infer that AF Lep b likely possesses a metal-enriched atmosphere ([Fe/H] > 1.0 dex). AF Lep b’s potential metal enrichment may be due to planetesimal accretion, giant impacts, and/or core erosion. The first process coincides with the debris disk in the system, which could be dynamically excited by AF Lep b and lead to planetesimal bombardment. Our analysis also determinesTeff≈ 800 K,log(g)3.7dex, and the presence of silicate clouds and disequilibrium chemistry in the atmosphere. Straddling the L/T transition, AF Lep b is thus far the coldest exoplanet with suggested evidence of silicate clouds.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 17, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Atmospheric escape shapes the fate of exoplanets, with statistical evidence for transformative mass loss imprinted across the mass–radius–insolation distribution. Here, we present transit spectroscopy of the highly irradiated, low-gravity, inflated hot Saturn HAT-P-67 b. The Habitable Zone Planet Finder spectra show a detection of up to 10% absorption depth of the 10833 Å helium triplet. The 13.8 hr of on-sky integration time over 39 nights sample the entire planet orbit, uncovering excess helium absorption preceding the transit by up to 130 planetary radii in a large leading tail. This configuration can be understood as the escaping material overflowing its small Roche lobe and advecting most of the gas into the stellar—and not planetary—rest frame, consistent with the Doppler velocity structure seen in the helium line profiles. The prominent leading tail serves as direct evidence for dayside mass loss with a strong day-/nightside asymmetry. We see some transit-to-transit variability in the line profile, consistent with the interplay of stellar and planetary winds. We employ one-dimensional Parker wind models to estimate the mass-loss rate, finding values on the order of 2 × 1013g s−1, with large uncertainties owing to the unknown X-ray and ultraviolet (XUV) flux of the F host star. The large mass loss in HAT-P-67 b represents a valuable example of an inflated hot Saturn, a class of planets recently identified to be rare, as their atmospheres are predicted to evaporate quickly. We contrast two physical mechanisms for runaway evaporation: ohmic dissipation and XUV irradiation, slightly favoring the latter.

     
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  6. Theories of planet formation predict that low-mass stars should rarely host exoplanets with masses exceeding that of Neptune. We used radial velocity observations to detect a Neptune-mass exoplanet orbiting LHS 3154, a star that is nine times less massive than the Sun. The exoplanet’s orbital period is 3.7 days, and its minimum mass is 13.2 Earth masses. We used simulations to show that the high planet-to-star mass ratio (>3.5 × 10−4) is not an expected outcome of either the core accretion or gravitational instability theories of planet formation. In the core-accretion simulations, we show that close-in Neptune-mass planets are only formed if the dust mass of the protoplanetary disk is an order of magnitude greater than typically observed around very low-mass stars.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  7. Long-baseline monitoring of the HAT-P-32Ab system reveals helium escaping through tidal tails 50 times the size of the planet. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 9, 2024
  8. Abstract

    We present the discovery of TOI-1994b, a low-mass brown dwarf transiting a hot subgiant star on a moderately eccentric orbit. TOI-1994 has an effective temperature of7700410+720K, Vmagnitude of 10.51 mag and log(g) of3.9820.065+0.067. The brown dwarf has a mass of22.12.5+2.6MJ, a period of 4.034 days, an eccentricity of0.3410.059+0.054, and a radius of1.2200.071+0.082RJ. TOI-1994b is more eccentric than other transiting brown dwarfs with similar masses and periods. The population of low-mass brown dwarfs may have properties similar to planetary systems if they were formed in the same way, but the short orbital period and high eccentricity of TOI-1994b may contrast this theory. An evolved host provides a valuable opportunity to understand the influence stellar evolution has on the substellar companion’s fundamental properties. With precise age, mass, and radius, the global analysis and characterization of TOI-1994b augments the small number of transiting brown dwarfs and allows the testing of substellar evolution models.

     
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  9. Abstract The photometric and spectral variability of brown dwarfs probes heterogeneous temperature and cloud distributions and traces the atmospheric circulation patterns. We present a new 42 hr Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Camera 3 G141 spectral time series of VHS 1256-1257 b, a late L-type planetary-mass companion that has been shown to have one of the highest variability amplitudes among substellar objects. The light curve is rapidly evolving and best fit by a combination of three sine waves with different periods and a linear trend. The amplitudes of the sine waves and the linear slope vary with the wavelength, and the corresponding spectral variability patterns match the predictions by models invoking either heterogeneous clouds or thermal profile anomalies. Combining these observations with previous HST monitoring data, we find that the peak-to-valley flux difference is 33% ± 2% with an even higher amplitude reaching 38% in the J band, the highest amplitude ever observed in a substellar object. The observed light curve can be explained by maps that are composed of zonal waves, spots, or a mixture of the two. Distinguishing the origin of rapid light curve evolution requires additional long-term monitoring. Our findings underscore the essential role of atmospheric dynamics in shaping brown-dwarf atmospheres and highlight VHS 1256-1257 b as one of the most favorable targets for studying the atmospheres, clouds, and atmospheric circulation of planets and brown dwarfs. 
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  10. ABSTRACT

    Brown dwarfs with well-measured masses, ages, and luminosities provide direct benchmark tests of substellar formation and evolutionary models. We report the first results from a direct imaging survey aiming to find and characterize substellar companions to nearby accelerating stars with the assistance of the Hipparcos–Gaia Catalog of Accelerations (HGCA). In this paper, we present a joint high-contrast imaging and astrometric discovery of a substellar companion to HD 176535 A, a K3.5V main-sequence star aged approximately $3.59_{-1.15}^{+0.87}$ Gyr at a distance of 36.99 ± 0.03 pc. In advance of our high-contrast imaging observations, we combined precision High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) Radial Velocities (RVs) and HGCA astrometry to predict the potential companion’s location and mass. We thereafter acquired two nights of KeckAO/NIRC2 direct imaging observations in the L′ band, which revealed a companion with a contrast of $\Delta L^{\prime }_p = 9.20\pm 0.06$ mag at a projected separation of ≈0.35 arcsec (≈13 au) from the host star. We revise our orbital fit by incorporating our dual-epoch relative astrometry using the open-source Markov chain Monte Carlo orbit fitting code orvara. We obtain a dynamical mass of $65.9_{-1.7}^{+2.0} M_{\rm Jup}$ that places HD 176535 B firmly in the brown dwarf regime. HD 176535 B is a new benchmark dwarf useful for constraining the evolutionary and atmospheric models of high-mass brown dwarfs. We found a luminosity of $\rm log(\mathit{ L}_{bol}/L_{\odot }) = -5.26\pm 0.07$ and a model-dependent effective temperature of 980 ± 35 K for HD 176535 B. We infer HD 176535 B to be a T dwarf from its mass, age, and luminosity. Our dynamical mass suggests that some substellar evolutionary models may be underestimating luminosity for high-mass T dwarfs. Given its angular separation and luminosity, HD 176535 B would make a promising candidate for Aperture Masking Interferometry with JWST and GRAVITY/Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer, and further spectroscopic characterization with instruments like the CHARIS/SCExAO/Subaru integral field spectrograph.

     
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