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Types of Information Expected from a Photometric Search for Extra-Solar PlanetsThe current theory postulates that planets are a consequence of the formation of stars from viscous accretion disks. Condensation from the hotter, inner portion of the accretion disk favors the formation of small rocky planets in the inner portion and the formation of gas giants in the cuter, cooler part. Consequently, terrestrial-type planets in inner orbits must be commonplace (Wetheril 1991). From the geometry of the situation (Borucki and Summers 1984), it can be shown that 1% of those planetary systems that resemble our solar system should show transits for Earth-sized (or larger) planets. Thus a photometric satellite that uses a wide field of view telescope and a large CCD array to simultaneously monitor 5000 target stars should detect 50 planetary systems. To verify that regularly recurring transits are occurring rather than statistical fluctuations of the stellar flux, demands observations that extend over several orbital periods so that the constancy of the orbital period, signal amplitude, and duration can be measured. Therefore, to examine the region from Mercury's orbit to that of the Earth requires a duration of three years whereas a search out to the orbit of mars requires about six years. The results of the observations should provide estimates of the distributions of planetary size and orbital radius, and the frequency of planetary systems that have Earth-sized planets in inner orbits. Because approximately one half of the star systems observed will be binary systems, the frequency of planetary systems orbit ' ing either one or both of the stars can also be determined. Furthermore, the complexity of the photometric signature of a planet transiting a pair of stars provides enough information to estimate the eccentricities of the planetary orbits. In summary, the statistical evidence from a photometric search of solar-like stars should be able to either confirm or deny the applicability of the current theory of planet formation and provide new information about the stability of planetary orbits in binary star systems.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Borucki, William (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Koch, David (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Bell, James, III (Washington Univ. United States)
Cuzzi, Jeffrey N.
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1994
Subject Category
Meeting Information
ASP Meeting(Flagstaff, AZ)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 186-06-01-04
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.