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  1. Abstract

    As part of a comprehensive effort to characterize the nearest stars, the CHIRON echelle spectrograph on the CTIO/SMARTS 1.5 m telescope is being used to acquire high-resolution (R= 80,000) spectra of K dwarfs within 50 pc. This paper provides spectral details about 35 K dwarfs from five benchmark sets with estimated ages spanning 20 Myr–5.7 Gyr. Four spectral age and activity indicators are tested, three of which aligned with the estimated ages of the benchmark groups—the Naidoublet (5889.95 and 5895.92 Å), the Hαline (6562.8 Å), and the Liiresonance line (6707.8 Å). The benchmark stars are then used to evaluate seven field K dwarfs exhibiting variable radial velocities for which initial CHIRON data did not show obvious companions. Two of these stars are estimated to be younger than 700 Myr, while one exhibits stellar activity unusual for older K-dwarf field stars and is possibly young. The four remaining stars turn out to be spectroscopic binaries, two of which are being reported here for the first time with orbital periods found using CHIRON data. Spectral analysis of the combined sample of 42 benchmark and variable radial velocity stars indicates temperatures ranging from 3900 to 5300 K and metallicities from −0.4 <more »[Fe/H] < +0.2. We also determinelogg=4.54.7for main-sequence K dwarfs. Ultimately, this study will target several thousand of the nearest K dwarfs and provide results that will serve present and future studies of stellar astrophysics and exoplanet habitability.

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  2. Abstract We present the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) discovery of the LHS 1678 (TOI-696) exoplanet system, comprised of two approximately Earth-sized transiting planets and a likely astrometric brown dwarf orbiting a bright ( V J = 12.5, K s = 8.3) M2 dwarf at 19.9 pc. The two TESS-detected planets are of radius 0.70 ± 0.04 R ⊕ and 0.98 ± 0.06 R ⊕ in 0.86 day and 3.69 day orbits, respectively. Both planets are validated and characterized via ground-based follow-up observations. High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher RV monitoring yields 97.7 percentile mass upper limits of 0.35 M ⊕ and 1.4 M ⊕ for planets b and c, respectively. The astrometric companion detected by the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory/Small and Moderate Aperture Telescope System 0.9 m has an orbital period on the order of decades and is undetected by other means. Additional ground-based observations constrain the companion to being a high-mass brown dwarf or smaller. Each planet is of unique interest; the inner planet has an ultra-short period, and the outer planet is in the Venus zone. Both are promising targets for atmospheric characterization with the James Webb Space Telescope and mass measurements via extreme-precision radial velocity. Amore »third planet candidate of radius 0.9 ± 0.1 R ⊕ in a 4.97 day orbit is also identified in multicycle TESS data for validation in future work. The host star is associated with an observed gap in the lower main sequence of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. This gap is tied to the transition from partially to fully convective interiors in M dwarfs, and the effect of the associated stellar astrophysics on exoplanet evolution is currently unknown. The culmination of these system properties makes LHS 1678 a unique, compelling playground for comparative exoplanet science and understanding the formation and evolution of small, short-period exoplanets orbiting low-mass stars.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 7, 2023