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Could oxygenic and/or anoxygenic photosynthesis exist on planet Proxima Centauri b? Proxima Centauri (spectral type – M5.5 V, 3050 K) is a red dwarf, whereas the Sun is type G2 V (5780 K). The light regimes on Earth and Proxima Centauri b are compared with estimates of the planet's suitability for Chlorophyll a (Chl a) and Chl d-based oxygenic photosynthesis and for bacteriochlorophyll (BChl)-based anoxygenic photosynthesis. Proxima Centauri b has low irradiance in the oxygenic photosynthesis range (400–749 nm: 64–132 µmol quanta m−2 s−1). Much larger amounts of light would be available for BChl-based anoxygenic photosynthesis (350–1100 nm: 724–1538 µmol quanta m−2 s−1). We estimated primary production under these light regimes. We used the oxygenic algae Synechocystis PCC6803, Prochlorothrix hollandica, Acaryochloris marina, Chlorella vulgaris, Rhodomonas sp. and Phaeodactylum tricornutum and the anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria Rhodopseudomonas palustris (BChl a), Afifella marina (BChl a), Thermochromatium tepidum (BChl a), Chlorobaculum tepidum (BChl a + c) and Blastochloris viridis (BChl b) as representative photosynthetic organisms. Proxima Centauri b has only ≈3% of the PAR (400–700 nm) of Earth irradiance, but we found that potential gross photosynthesis (Pg) on Proxima Centauri b could be surprisingly high (oxygenic photosynthesis: earth ≈0.8 gC m−2 h−1; Proxima Centauri b ≈0.14 gC m−2 h−1). The proportion of PAR irradiance useable by oxygenic photosynthetic organisms (the sum of Blue + Red irradiance) is similar for the Earth and Proxima Centauri b. The oxygenic photic zone would be only ≈10 m deep in water compared with ≈200 m on Earth. The Pg of an anoxic Earth (gC m−2 h−1) is ≈0.34–0.59 (land) and could be as high as ≈0.29–0.44 on Proxima Centauri b. 1 m of water does not affect oxygenic or anoxygenic photosynthesis on Earth, but on Proxima Centauri b oxygenic Pg is reduced by ≈50%. Effective elimination of near IR limits Pg by photosynthetic bacteria (<10% of the surface value). The spectrum of Proxima Centauri b is unfavourable for anoxygenic aquatic photosynthesis. Nevertheless, a substantial aerobic or anaerobic ecology is possible on Proxima Centauri b. Protocols to recognize the biogenic signature of anoxygenic photosynthesis are needed.
Commission 42 began life as Photometric Double Stars in 1948 at the 7th General Assembly in Zurich, under the presidency of Zdenek Kopal. As early as 1961, then General Secretary Lukas Plaut recommended a merger between C42 and C26, Double Stars, one of the original 32 commissions going back to 1919-22 (first president Aitken, assistant director at Lick). C42 became Close Binary Stars in 1970, at the 14th GA in Brighton (the first one I attended). Table 1 shows the presidents of C42, and vice presidents, from when the office started, through the history of the Commission.
Commission 42 (C42) co-organized, together with Commission 27 (C27) and Division V (Div V) as a whole, a full day of science and business sessions that were held on 24 August 2012. The program included time slots for discussion of business matters related to Div V, C27 and C42, and two sessions of 2 hours each devoted to science talks of interest to both C42 and C27. In addition, we had a joint session between Div IV and Div V motivated by the proposal to reformulate the division structure of the IAU and the possible merger of the two divisions into a new Div G. The current report gives an account of the matters discussed during the business session of C42.
The present report covers the main developments in the field of close binaries during the triennium 2009-2012. In addition to scientific publications, there have been several opportunities for direct interaction of researchers working on close binaries. A number of meetings focused on more or less specific topics have taken place during this past years but the highlight for Commission 42 is arguably IAU Symposium 282 held in 2011 in Slovakia. The meeting exploited a strong connection in the methodology and tools used by close binary studies and the rapidly advancing field of exoplanet research. After all, exoplanetary systems are mostly discovered and studied using techniques employed by analyses of close binaries for decades. Modelling of exoplanet radial velocity curves and transiting planet light curves are just particular cases of single-lined and eclipsing binary systems, respectively, with very unequal component properties. As shown by IAU Symposium 282, the synergies between the two fields are strong and potentially very useful. Found below is a summary of the main scientific topics and conclusions from this very successful Symposium.
Division V on Variable Stars consists of Commission 27, also called Variable Stars, and Commission 42, Close Binary Stars. The former deals with stars whose variations are intrinsic, whereas in the latter the variations are caused by the interactions between the components in the binary or multiple star system. There may be cases where the assignment of an object to one of the two Commissions may be in doubt. For example, the observation of pulsating stars in eclipsing binaries within nearby galaxies, or the relation between some types of oscillation modes and membership to binary systems, continue to be widely discussed.
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.
CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exo-earths with Near-infrared and optical Echelle Spectrographs) is a next-generation instrument for the 3.5 m telescope at the Calar Alto Observatory. CARMENES will conduct a five-year exoplanet survey targeting ~300 M stars. The CARMENES instrument consists of two separate fiber-fed spectrographs covering the wavelength range from 0.52 to 1.7 μm at a spectral resolution of R = 85,000. The spectrographs are housed in a temperature-stabilized environment in vacuum tanks, to enable a 1 m/s radial velocity precision employing a simultaneous emission-line calibration.
During the commission business session, the past President presented the new Organizing Committee which was selected by the OC through a e-mail vote conducted during the months before the Rio de Janeiro General Assembly. The new OC will consist of Ignasi Ribas (President), Mercedes Richards (Vice President), and Slavek Rucinski (Past President) with the members: David Bradstreet, Petr Harmanec, Janusz Kaluzny, Joanna Mikolajewska, Ulisse Munari, Panos Niarchos, Katalin Olah, Theo Pribulla, Colin Scarfe and Guillermo Torres.
Proper characterization of the host star to a planet is a key element to the understanding of its overall properties. The star has a direct impact through the modification of the structure and evolution of the planet atmosphere by being the overwhelmingly larger source of energy. The star plays a central role in shaping the structure, evolution, and even determining the mere existence of planetary atmospheres. The vast majority of the stellar flux is well understood thanks to the impressive progress made in the modeling of stellar atmospheres. At short wavelengths (X-rays to UV), however, the information is scarcer since the stellar emission does not originate in the photosphere but in the chromospheric and coronal regions, which are much less understood. The same can be said about particle emissions, with a strong impact on planetary atmospheres, because a detailed description of the time-evolution of stellar wind is still lacking. Here we review our current understanding of the flux and particle emissions of the Sun and low-mass stars and briefly address their impact in the context of planetary atmospheres.
Two meetings of interest to close binaries took place during the reporting period: A full day session on short-period binary stars – mostly CV's – (Milone et al. 2008) during the 2006 AAS Spring meeting in Calgary and the very broadly designed IAU Symposium No. 240 on Binary Stars as Critical Tools and Tests in Contemporary Astrophysics in Prague, 2006, with many papers on close binaries [Hartkopf et al. 2007]. In addition, the book by Eggleton (2006), which is a comprehensive summary of evolutionary processes in binary and multiple stars, was published.
The increasing number of transiting planets raises the possibility of finding changes in their transit time, duration and depth that could be indicative of further planets in the system. Experience from eclipsing binaries indeed shows that such changes may be expected. A first obvious candidate to look for a perturbing planet is GJ 436, which hosts a hot transiting Neptune-mass planet in an eccentric orbit. Ribas et al. (2008) suggested that such eccentricity and a possible change in the orbital inclination might be due to a perturbing small planet in a close-in orbit. A radial velocity signal of a 5 M⊕ planet close to the 2:1 mean-motion resonance seemed to provide the perfect candidate. Recent new radial velocities have deemed such signal spurious. Here we put all the available information in context and we evaluate the possibility of a small perturber to GJ 436 b to explain its eccentricity and possible inclination change. In particular, we discuss the constraints provided by the transit time variation data. We conclude that, given the current data, the close-in perturber scenario still offers a plausible explanation to the observed orbital and physical properties of GJ 436 b.
For an extrasolar planet on an eccentric orbit, the orbital velocity is constantly changing, even during a planetary transit. This changing orbital velocity will, in general, cause lightcurve assymetry. The asymmetry causes the mid-transit time to be slightly off-centre from the halfway point between transit ingress and egress. For GJ436b, we estimate that the mid-transit time is shifted by 20 seconds. In the case of a system experiencing secular changes, this difference will lead to a long period transit time variation (L-TTV) signal, under the typical definition of the mid-transit time. In this work, we describe the origins of the effect and evaluate it in the case of GJ436b experiencing hypothetical secular changes. We predict L-TTV could be used to map secular changes in such systems.
At the IAU XXV General Assembly in Sydney, 2003, a questionnaire on the perception of participation of “young astronomers” at IAU meeting was distributed. Following the conclusions from the analysis of this questionnaire, the IAU EC recommended in 2004 that the “young astronomers” concept at the next GA in Prague should be worked out with specific activities.
The president of the Commission welcomed the participants in the business meeting and provided an overview of the activities carried out during the past triennium 2002-2005. A good number of meetings have been held during this period on close binaries, about two per year, including both classical and interacting systems. One specific Symposium at the General Assembly in Prague, devoted to binary stars as astrophysical tools, showed the vitality of the field and the trend of cooperation between scientists studying close binaries and those specialized in visual double stars. The study of very low-mass binaries, including those containing planet-sized components also received much attention as well as the analysis of massive objects in nearby galaxies.
The results of the Sun in Time program indicate that the X ray, far ultraviolet and ultraviolet fluxes of the young Sun were significantly higher than today. Similarly, the solar wind mayhave been much stronger in the past. Such environment of intense energy and particle emissions could have influenced the paleo-atmospheres of Solar System planets and, by extension, the habitability and stability of exoplanets.
The advent of larger telescopes and powerful instrumentation enables the exploration of new aspects of faint eclipsing binaries that are just now becoming accessible. An example of this are eclipsing binaries in Local Group galaxies such as the LMC, SMC, M31 and M33, whose study yields not only stellar properties of stars formed in different chemical environments (thus providing useful model tests) but also direct distance determinations to the host galaxies. In general this is also applicable to eclipsing binaries belonging to any stellar ensemble. Another example is the observation and study of eclipsing very-low mass stars, brown dwarfs and planets. Besides the need for large telescopes because of their faintness, these also benefit from improved observational capabilities in the infrared spectral windows. Here we discuss the prospects for eclipsing binary research using photometry and spectroscopy from large telescopes.
Eclipsing binaries (EBs) have long been known for providing accurate stellar fundamental properties, such as masses and radii. These are obtained from the modeling of light and radial velocity curves and, with input data of good quality, uncertainties of a few percent in the components’ physical properties are now routinely achieved. Additionally, a number of other observables are determined for eclipsing binaries using techniques similar to those employed for single stars: Effective temperatures from multi-wavelength photometric analysis and chemical abundances from detailed spectroscopic modeling. Thus, EB systems provide a complete characterization of the physical properties of their components, with the added constraint that both stars should have identical age. Also worth mentioning is the ubiquity of EB systems among all kinds of stars. Main sequence stars, variable stars, giants, supergiants, and compact objects, to name a few, are found as members of EBs. This makes EBs excellent “laboratories” for stellar astrophysics. A number of studies have exploited this fact and carried out detailed analysis of galactic EB systems (e.g. Andersen et al. 1991; Clausen 1991; Claret & Giménez 1993; Schröder et al. 1997; Guinan et al. 2000). A few areas where EBs play a crucial role in astrophysics are stellar structure and evolution, tidal evolution, stellar atmospheres, binary evolution in interactive systems,…
We report on the progress of the program to study eclipsing binaries (EBs) in the Local Group galaxies. The primary goals of the program are to determine accurate distances and physical properties of the stars, and to probe the structure and evolution of the host galaxies. In particular, the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is critically important because this nearby galaxy is used to calibrate most of the important cosmic distance indicators such as Cepheid and RR Lyr variables. Over the last several years, we have demonstrated that the distance of the LMC can be reliably measured using selected eclipsing binaries. The combined analyses of the UV/optical spectrophotometry, radial velocities, and light curves yield the stars’ physical properties (mass, radius, Teff, luminosity, metal abundance) and accurate (2–3%) distances. So far, the physical properties and distances of four LMC EBs have been completed and give a distance to the centroid of the LMC of 48.3 ± 1.6 kpc. Several additional EBs in the LMC and the Small Magellanic Cloud have been observed and are being analyzed. Also several LMC EBs have been observed with FUSE (92 – 119 nm) to further refine values of Teff and interstellar absorption. As an extension of these studies, 19–20th mag EBs in M31 are being observed photometrically and spectroscopically. The results of this extragalactic EB program are discussed along with plans to use EBs to study the host galaxy structure.