Exoplanets & Exomoons

The Detectability of Habitable Exomoons with Kepler

By Keith Cowing
April 11, 2013
Filed under , , , , ,
The Detectability of Habitable Exomoons with Kepler
Pandora from "Avatar"
James Cameron

In this paper, the detectability of habitable exomoons orbiting around giant planets in M-dwarf systems using Transit Timing Variations (TTVs) and Transit Timing Durations (TDVs) with Kepler-class photometry is investigated. Light curves of systems with various configurations were simulated around M-dwarf hosts of mass 0.5 Msun and radius 0.55 Rsun.

Jupiter-like giant planets which offer the best potential for hosting habitable exomoons were considered with rocky super-Earth-mass moons. The detectability is measured by using the phase-correlation between TTV and TDV signals.

Since the TDV signal is typically weaker than the TTV signal, confirmation of an exomoon detection will depend on being able to detect a TDV signal. We find that exomoons around planets orbiting within the habitable zone of an M-dwarf host star can produce both detectable TTV and TDV signatures with Kepler-class photometry. While aliasing between the planet period and moon period may hinder exomoon detection, we also find some strong correlation signatures in our simulation (eg. correlation: >0.7) which would provide convincing exomoon signatures.

With the addition of red noise stellar variability, correlations generally weaken. However simulated examples with planet masses less than around 25 Mearth, moons of mass 8-10 Mearth and specific values of planet and moon periods still yield detectable correlation in 25-50% of cases. Our simulation indicates that Kepler provides one of the best available opportunities for exomoon detection.

Supachai Awiphan, Eamonn Kerins
(Submitted on 10 Apr 2013)

Comments: 14 pages, 8 figures, 2 tables, Accepted by MNRAS
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1304.2925 [astro-ph.EP]

(or arXiv:1304.2925v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Supachai Awiphan [view email]
[v1] Wed, 10 Apr 2013 12:14:35 GMT (6754kb,D)
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Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻