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Fourier analysis of the light curve of AC And from the HATNet database reveals the rich frequency structure of this object. Above 30 components are found down to the amplitude of 3 mmag. Several of these frequencies are not the linear combinations of the three basic components. We detect period increase in all three components that may lend support to the Population I classification of this variable.
We measured the spin-orbit misalignment for WASP-79b, a transiting hot Jupiter from the WASP survey. Using the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect during the transit event, we determined the sky-projected obliquity to be λ = −106+10−8○. This result indicates that the planet is in a nearly polar orbit.
The science of extra-solar planets is one of the most rapidly changing areas of astrophysics and since 1995 the number of planets known has increased by almost two orders of magnitude. A combination of ground-based surveys and dedicated space missions has resulted in 560-plus planets being detected, and over 1200 that await confirmation. NASA's Kepler mission has opened up the possibility of discovering Earth-like planets in the habitable zone around some of the 100,000 stars it is surveying during its 3 to 4-year lifetime. The new ESA's Gaia mission is expected to discover thousands of new planets around stars within 200 parsecs of the Sun. The key challenge now is moving on from discovery, important though that remains, to characterisation: what are these planets actually like, and why are they as they are?
In the past ten years, we have learned how to obtain the first spectra of exoplanets using transit transmission and emission spectroscopy. With the high stability of Spitzer, Hubble, and large ground-based telescopes the spectra of bright close-in massive planets can be obtained and species like water vapour, methane, carbon monoxide and dioxide have been detected. With transit science came the first tangible remote sensing of these planetary bodies and so one can start to extrapolate from what has been learnt from Solar System probes to what one might plan to learn about their faraway siblings. As we learn more about the atmospheres, surfaces and near-surfaces of these remote bodies, we will begin to build up a clearer picture of their construction, history and suitability for life.
The Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory, EChO, will be the first dedicated mission to investigate the physics and chemistry of Exoplanetary Atmospheres. By characterising spectroscopically more bodies in different environments we will take detailed planetology out of the Solar System and into the Galaxy as a whole.
EChO has now been selected by the European Space Agency to be assessed as one of four M3 mission candidates.
The general relativistic precession rate of periastra in close-in exoplanets can be orders of magnitude larger than the magnitude of the same effect for Mercury. The realization that some of the close-in exoplanets have significant eccentricities raises the possibility that this precession might be detectable. We explore here the observability of the periastra precession using radial velocity and transit light curve observations. Our analysis is independent of the source of precession, which can also have significant contributions due to additional planets and tidal deformations. We find that precession of the periastra of the magnitude expected from general relativity can be detectable in timescales of ≲10 years with current observational capabilities by measuring the change in the primary transit duration or in the time difference between primary and secondary transits. Radial velocity curves alone would be able to detect this precession for super-massive, close-in exoplanets orbiting inactive stars if they have ~100 datapoints at each of two epochs separated by ~20 years. The contribution to the precession by tidal deformations may dominate the total precession in cases where the relativistic precession is detectable. Studies of transit durations with Kepler might need to take into account effects arising from the general relativistic and tidal induced precession of periastra for systems containing close-in, eccentric exoplanets. Such studies may be able to detect additional planets with masses comparable to that of Earth by detecting secular variations in the transit duration induced by the changing longitude of periastron.
The recently discovered transiting very hot Jupiter, HAT-P-7b, a planet detected by the telescopes of HATNet, turned out to be among the ones subjected to the highest irradiation from the parent star. In order to best characterize this particular planet, we carried out an analysis based on a complete and simultaneous Monte-Carlo solution using all available data. We included the discovery light curves, partial follow-up light curves, the radial velocity data, and we used the stellar evolution models to infer the stellar properties.
This self-consistent way of modeling provides the most precise estimate of the a posteriori distributions of all of the system parameters of interest, and avoids making assumptions on the values and uncertainties of any of the internally derived variables describing the system. This analysis demonstrates that even partial light curve information can be valuable. This may become very important for future discoveries of planets with longer periods – and therefore longer transit durations – where the chance of observing a full event is small.
Massive variability searches initiated the design of HAT (Hungarian Automated Telescope), an autonomous observatory. HAT consists of a horseshoe mount similar to the one used in the Automated All Sky Survey (ASAS, Pojmański 1997), a clamshell dome with various utilities, a telephoto lens and a CCD. Expensive hardware elements have been substituted by software running under Realtime Linux: a multitask operating system which can handle processes in real time. A virtual observer – modeled as a finite state machine – is responsible for managing the observatory. The modular structure allows of running virtually any kind of observing program for small telescopes. We describe technical aspects, as well as present test results carried out by HAT1 (Budapest).
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