Volume 596, December 2016
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||25 November 2016|
Dusty tails of evaporating exoplanets
II. Physical modelling of the KIC 12557548b light curve
1 Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2 Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
3 SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands
4 Department of Astrophysics/IMAPP, Radboud University Nijmegen, PO Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands
5 CASA, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado, 389-UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
6 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
7 Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
8 Stellar Astrophysics Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 120, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Received: 5 July 2016
Accepted: 26 August 2016
Context. Evaporating rocky exoplanets, such as KIC 12557548b, eject large amounts of dust, which can trail the planet in a comet-like tail. When such objects occult their host star, the resulting transit signal contains information about the dust in the tail.
Aims. We aim to use the detailed shape of the Kepler light curve of KIC 12557548b to constrain the size and composition of the dust grains that make up the tail, as well as the mass loss rate of the planet.
Methods. Using a self-consistent numerical model of the dust dynamics and sublimation, we calculated the shape of the tail by following dust grains from their ejection from the planet to their destruction due to sublimation. From this dust cloud shape, we generated synthetic light curves (incorporating the effects of extinction and angle-dependent scattering), which were then compared with the phase-folded Kepler light curve. We explored the free-parameter space thoroughly using a Markov chain Monte Carlo method.
Results. Our physics-based model is capable of reproducing the observed light curve in detail. Good fits are found for initial grain sizes between 0.2 and 5.6 μm and dust mass loss rates of 0.6 to 15.6 M⊕ Gyr-1 (2σ ranges). We find that only certain combinations of material parameters yield the correct tail length. These constraints are consistent with dust made of corundum (Al2O3), but do not agree with a range of carbonaceous, silicate, or iron compositions.
Conclusions. Using a detailed, physically motivated model, it is possible to constrain the composition of the dust in the tails of evaporating rocky exoplanets. This provides a unique opportunity to probe to interior composition of the smallest known exoplanets.
Key words: eclipses / occultations / planets and satellites: composition / planets and satellites: individual: KIC 12557548b / planet-star interactions
© ESO, 2016
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