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The transits of extrasolar planets with moons

Kipping, D.M.; (2011) The transits of extrasolar planets with moons. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The search for extrasolar planets is strongly motivated by the goal of characterizing how frequent habitable worlds and life may be within the Galaxy. Whilst much effort has been spent on searching for Earth-like planets, large moons may also be common, temperate abodes for life as well. The methods to detect extrasolar moons, or “exomoons” are more subtle than their planetary counterparts and in this thesis I aim to provide a method to find such bodies in transiting systems, which offer the greatest potential for detection. Before one can search for the tiny perturbations to the planetary signal, an understanding of the planetary transit must be established. Therefore, in Chapters 3 to 5 I discuss the transit model and provide several new insights. Chapter 4 presents new analytic expressions for the times of transit minima and the transit duration, which will be critical in the later search for exomoons. Chapter 5 discusses two sources of distortion to the transit signal, namely blending (with a focus on the previously unconsidered self-blending scenario) and light curve smearing due to long integration times. I provide methods to compensate for both of these effects, thus permitting for the accurate modelling of the planetary transit light curve. In Chapter 6, I discuss methods to detect exomoons through their gravitational influence on the host planet, giving rise to transit timing and duration variations (TTV and TDV). The previously known TTV effect is updated with a new model and the associated critical problems are outlined. I then predict a new effect, TDV, which solves these problems, making exomoon detection viable. Chapter 7 presents a feasibility study for detecting habitable-zone exomoons with Kepler, where it is found that moons down to 0.2M⊕ are detectable. Finally, conclusions and future work are discussed in Chapter 8.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The transits of extrasolar planets with moons
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Physics and Astronomy

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