Exoplanets & Exomoons

Toward Complete Characterization: Prospects for Directly Imaging Transiting Exoplanets

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 30, 2020
Filed under
Toward Complete Characterization: Prospects for Directly Imaging Transiting Exoplanets

High contrast direct imaging of exoplanets can provide many important observables, including measurements of the orbit, spectra that probe the lower layers of the atmosphere, and phase variations of the planet, but cannot directly measure planet radius or mass.

Our future understanding of directly imaged exoplanets will therefore rely on extrapolated models of planetary atmospheres and bulk composition, which need robust calibration. We estimate the population of extrasolar planets that could serve as calibrators for these models. Critically, this population of “standard planets” must be accessible to both direct imaging and the transit method, allowing for radius measurement.

We show that the search volume of a direct imaging mission eventually overcomes the transit probability falloff with semi-major axis, so that as long as cold planets are not exceedingly rare, the population of transiting planets and directly imageable planets overlaps. Using current extrapolations of Kepler occurrence rates, we estimate that ~8 standard planets could be characterized shortward of 800 nm with an ambitious future direct imaging mission like LUVOIR-A and several dozen could be detected at V band. We show the design space that would expand the sample size and discuss the extent to which ground- and space-based surveys could detect this small but crucial population of planets.

Christopher C. Stark, Courtney Dressing, Shannon Dulz, Eric Lopez, Mark S. Marley, Peter Plavchan, Johannes Sahlmann

Comments: 13 pages, 9 figures, Accepted for publication in AJ
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:2004.14396 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2004.14396v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Christopher Stark
[v1] Wed, 29 Apr 2020 18:00:03 UTC (105 KB)

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) 🖖🏻