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    We present a high-contrast imaging survey of intermediate-mass (1.75–4.5 M⊙) stars to search the most extreme stellar binaries, i.e. for the lowest mass stellar companions. Using adaptive optics at the Lick and Gemini observatories, we observed 169 stars and detected 24 candidates companions, 16 of which are newly discovered, and all but three are likely or confirmed physical companions. Despite obtaining sensitivity down to the substellar limit for 75 per cent of our sample, we do not detect any companion below 0.3 M⊙, strongly suggesting that the distribution of stellar companions is truncated at a mass ratio of qmin ≳ 0.075. Combining our results with known brown dwarf companions, we identify a low-mass companion desert to intermediate-mass stars in the range 0.02 ≲ q ≲ 0.05, which quantitatively matches the known brown dwarf desert among solar-type stars. We conclude that the formation mechanism for multiple systems operates in a largely scale-invariant manner and precludes the formation of extremely uneven systems, likely because the components of a protobinary accrete most of their mass after the initial cloud fragmentation. Similarly, the mechanism to form ‘planetary’ (q ≲ 0.02) companions likely scales linearly with stellar mass, probably as a result of the correlation between the masses of stars and their protoplanetary discs. Finally, we predict the existence of a sizable population of brown dwarf companions to low-mass stars and of a rising population of planetary-mass objects towards ${\approx}1\,M_\mathrm{Jup}$ around solar-type stars. Improvements on current instrumentation will test these predictions.

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  2. Abstract

    Inference is crucial in modern astronomical research, where hidden astrophysical features and patterns are often estimated from indirect and noisy measurements. Inferring the posterior of hidden features, conditioned on the observed measurements, is essential for understanding the uncertainty of results and downstream scientific interpretations. Traditional approaches for posterior estimation include sampling-based methods and variational inference (VI). However, sampling-based methods are typically slow for high-dimensional inverse problems, while VI often lacks estimation accuracy. In this paper, we proposeα-deep probabilistic inference, a deep learning framework that first learns an approximate posterior usingα-divergence VI paired with a generative neural network, and then produces more accurate posterior samples through importance reweighting of the network samples. It inherits strengths from both sampling and VI methods: it is fast, accurate, and more scalable to high-dimensional problems than conventional sampling-based approaches. We apply our approach to two high-impact astronomical inference problems using real data: exoplanet astrometry and black hole feature extraction.

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  3. Abstract The formation and evolution pathway for the directly imaged multiplanetary system HR 8799 remains mysterious. Accurate constraints on the chemical composition of the planetary atmosphere(s) are key to solving the mystery. We perform a detailed atmospheric retrieval on HR 8799 c to infer the chemical abundances and abundance ratios using a combination of photometric data along with low- and high-resolution spectroscopic data ( R ∼ 20–35,000). We specifically retrieve [C/H], [O/H], and C/O and find them to be 0.55 − 0.39 + 0.36 , 0.47 − 0.32 + 0.31 , and 0.67 − 0.15 + 0.12 at 68% confidence. The superstellar C and O abundances, yet a stellar C/O ratio, reveal a potential formation pathway for HR 8799 c. Planet c, and likely the other gas giant planets in the system, formed early on (likely within ∼1 Myr), followed by further atmospheric enrichment in C and O through the accretion of solids beyond the CO ice line. The enrichment either preceded or took place during the early phase of the inward migration to the current planet locations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 6, 2023
  4. Abstract

    The detection of satellites around extrasolar planets, so called exomoons, remains a largely unexplored territory. In this work, we study the potential of detecting these elusive objects from radial velocity monitoring of self-luminous, directly imaged planets. This technique is now possible thanks to the development of dedicated instruments combining the power of high-resolution spectroscopy and high-contrast imaging. First, we demonstrate a sensitivity to satellites with a mass ratio of 1%–4% at separations similar to the Galilean moons from observations of a brown-dwarf companion (HR 7672 B;Kmag= 13; 0.″7 separation) with the Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer (R∼ 35,000 in theKband) at the W. M. Keck Observatory. Current instrumentation is therefore already sensitive to large unresolved satellites that could be forming from gravitational instability akin to binary star formation. Using end-to-end simulations, we then estimate that future instruments such as the Multi-Object Diffraction-limited High-resolution Infrared Spectrograph, planned for the Thirty Meter Telescope, should be sensitive to satellites with mass ratios of ∼10−4. Such small moons would likely form in a circumplanetary disk similar to the Jovian satellites in the solar system. Looking for the Rossiter–McLaughlin effect could also be an interesting pathway to detecting the smallest moons on short orbital periods. Future exomoon discoveries will allow precise mass measurements of the substellar companions that they orbit and provide key insight into the formation of exoplanets. They would also help constrain the population of habitable Earth-sized moons orbiting gas giants in the habitable zone of their stars.

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  5. Abstract A benchmark brown dwarf (BD) is a BD whose properties (e.g., mass and chemical composition) are precisely and independently measured. Benchmark BDs are valuable in testing theoretical evolutionary tracks, spectral synthesis, and atmospheric retrievals for substellar objects. Here, we report results of atmospheric retrieval on a synthetic spectrum and a benchmark BD, HR 7672 B, with petitRADTRANS . First, we test the retrieval framework on a synthetic PHOENIX BT-Settl spectrum with a solar composition. We show that the retrieved C and O abundances are consistent with solar values, but the retrieved C/O is overestimated by 0.13–0.18, which is about four times higher than the formal error bar. Second, we perform retrieval on HR 7672 B using high spectral-resolution data ( R = 35,000) from the Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer and near-infrared photometry. We retrieve [C/H], [O/H], and C/O to be −0.24 ± 0.05, −0.19 ± 0.04, and 0.52 ± 0.02. These values are consistent with those of HR 7672 A within 1.5 σ . As such, HR 7672 B is among only a few benchmark BDs (along with Gl 570 D and HD 3651 B) that have been demonstrated to have consistent elemental abundances with their primary stars. Our work provides a practical procedure of testing and performing atmospheric retrieval, and sheds light on potential systematics of future retrievals using high- and low-resolution data. 
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  6. Abstract

    The HR 2562 system is a rare case where a brown dwarf companion resides in a cleared inner hole of a debris disk, offering invaluable opportunities to study the dynamical interaction between a substellar companion and a dusty disk. We present the first ALMA observation of the system as well as the continued Gemini Planet Imager monitoring of the companion’s orbit with six new epochs from 2016 to 2018. We update the orbital fit, and in combination with absolute astrometry from GAIA, place a 3σupper limit of 18.5MJon the companion’s mass. To interpret the ALMA observations, we used radiative transfer modeling to determine the disk properties. We find that the disk is well resolved and nearly edge-on. While the misalignment angle between the disk and the orbit is weakly constrained, due to the short orbital arc available, the data strongly support a (near) coplanar geometry for the system. Furthermore, we find that the models that describe the ALMA data best have inner radii that are close to the companion’s semimajor axis. Including a posteriori knowledge of the system’s SED further narrows the constraints on the disk’s inner radius and places it at a location that is in reasonable agreement with (possibly interior to) predictions from existing dynamical models of disk truncation by an interior substellar companion. HR 2562 has the potential over the next few years to become a new test bed for dynamical interaction between a debris disk and a substellar companion.

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  7. null (Ed.)