Exoplanet Population Inference and the Abundance of Earth Analogs from Noisy, Incomplete Catalogs

No true extrasolar Earth analog is known. Hundreds of planets have been found around Sun-like stars that are either Earth-sized but on shorter periods, or else on year-long orbits but somewhat larger.

Under strong assumptions, exoplanet catalogs have been used to make an extrapolated estimate of the rate at which Sun-like stars host Earth analogs. These studies are complicated by the fact that every catalog is censored by non-trivial selection effects and detection efficiencies, and every property (period, radius, etc.) is measured noisily. Here we present a general hierarchical probabilistic framework for making justified inferences about the population of exoplanets, taking into account survey completeness and, for the first time, observational uncertainties. We are able to make fewer assumptions about the distribution than previous studies; we only require that the occurrence rate density be a smooth function of period and radius (employing a Gaussian process).

By applying our method to synthetic catalogs, we demonstrate that it produces more accurate estimates of the whole population than standard procedures based on weighting by inverse detection efficiency. We apply the method to an existing catalog of small planet candidates around G dwarf stars (Petigura et al. 2013). We confirm a previous result that the radius distribution changes slope near Earth's radius. We find that the rate density of Earth analogs is about 0.02 (per star per natural logarithmic bin in period and radius) with large uncertainty. This number is much smaller than previous estimates made with the same data but stronger assumptions.

Daniel Foreman-Mackey, David W. Hogg, Timothy D. Morton (Submitted on 11 Jun 2014)

Comments: The data and results are available at this http URL and the code can be found at this https URL

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:1406.3020 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1406.3020v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Daniel Foreman-Mackey [v1] Wed, 11 Jun 2014 20:00:00 GMT (1686kb,D)

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