HPF has confirmed the planetary nature of a single-transiting Jupiter-sized planet (1.15 Jupiter radii) orbiting a nearby low mass M dwarf star on an orbital period of ~29 days. The paper has been published in the Astronomical Journal and is available on arXiv.
TESS observes a single transit
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission conducted a 2-year (2018-2020) all-sky survey with the goal of identifying exoplanets transiting bright, nearby stars. TESS is currently on an extended mission where it will continue its search for exoplanets. The video below contains additional information on TESS and its survey strategy:
Due to the nature of TESS’s observing strategy and design, it will search for exoplanets in 85% of the entire sky. However, 74% of this total sky coverage will only be observed for almost 1 month. Consequently, TESS will find single events which may be caused by genuine transiting exoplanets that have no detectable period. An analyses of the TESS yield, predicts that a few hundred single transit events will be detected by TESS, with an estimated 80 of these signals originating from planets located in the habitable zone at distances from the host star where water, if present, could exist in liquid form. In addition to potential habitability, single transit events of long-period planets present an opportunity to investigate a number of questions related to planet formation and migration.
TOI-1899 is a prime example of a single transiting system. While the transit was observed by TESS, it was only detected as a candidate due to efforts from the citizen science project Planet Hunters TESS (PHT). The traditional TESS pipeline searches light curves for candidate transit events with a low background noise and multiple events associated with a given orbital period. TOI-1899 b only crossed its host star once while TESS was watching, which means it was never formally detected by the TESS pipeline. It was not given the designation of a planet candidate until PHT notified the community. Finding these types of single events is an example of how citizen science can improve the scientific output of TESS. You can learn more about citizen science on the PHT blog.
For our work, we separately detected the event with a custom pipeline designed to process TESS photometry of cool stars known as M dwarfs. TOI-1899 is an M dwarf and it is smaller (0.6 Solar radii) and cooler than the Sun (3900 Kelvin). The large transit depth (4%) suggested a Jupiter-sized companion, but it was impossible to derive a precise period from a single event. Following the detection, we set out to confirm the planetary nature of TOI-1899 b. As we have previously discussed on blog posts for G 9-40 b and TOI-1728 b, transforming a planet candidate into a full-fledged, well-characterized exoplanet requires significant observing from the ground. This is even more true when we lack any kind of constraint on the planet’s period!
Validation with no period
Additional ground-based observations of the transit were not possible without a precise period. We instead decided to statistically validate this planet. Statistical validation uses the observed transit and knowledge of the period and nearby stellar neighbors as constraints in the analysis. It is a tool to ensure your candidate is likely a planet without exhausting limited photometric and spectroscopic resources on every candidate planet. As with the Kepler mission, false positives in TESS can originate from systems that lack planets such as smaller, dimmer stars orbiting larger, brighter companion stars. Statistical validation uses simulations to (i) compare the observed transit to other confirmed signatures of simulated exoplanets and impostors, and (ii) determine if the observed transit is plausible in the Milky Way and its statistical probability of being a planet.
We observed TOI-1899 with adaptive optics imaging from ShaneAO and high-contrast imaging from NESSI to determine if there were any on-sky bright, stellar companions. To approximate the period, we used the transit duration and the stellar density to get an approximate period of 30 days. TOI-1899 b had a >99% chance of being a planet which gave us confidence that high precision spectroscopic observations would not be wasted observing a multiple star system.
Verifying the Host Star
Given the very high precision of the space-based photometry, the ability to track the center of the photometric aperture is one method of identifying background systems which can masquerade as a planetary transit. The dimming of any object through an event, such as a transit, will shift the measured on-sky center of the light source. The apparent change in the position of the target star due to contaminating systems is dependent on the separation of the stars, their relative brightness, and the transit depth. We used the Discovery and Vetting of Exoplanets (DAVE) software package for our centroid analysis. During transit, the lack of a systematic shift away from the expect host star, TOI-1899, suggested it was indeed the host and gave us confidence that we identified the correct target when planning subsequent observations.
Confirmation and Characterization
Once we verified TOI-1899 was the most probable host of the transit and the companion was most likely a planet, we began observing TOI-1899 as part of our M dwarf TESS follow up program with HPF. The goal was to determine the orbital period and the planetary mass via the star’s Doppler shift. After a 2-month span of observations for TOI-1899, we used the Doppler measurements to determine TOI-1899 b is a planet that is two-thirds the mass of Jupiter, 1.15 times larger in radius, and has an orbital period of approximately 29 days.
From previous exoplanetary surveys, it was evident that close-in Jupiter-sized planets are rare: almost 1% of Sun-like stars host a close Jupiter-sized exoplanet and the occurrence rate falls off around cool stars like TOI-1899. Before the characterization of TOI-1899 b, there were only 4 other known Jupiter-sized objects transiting cool stars: Kepler-45 b, HATS-6 b, NGTS-1 b, and HATS-71 b, all with orbital periods <4 days. HPF data were crucial in identifying TOI-1899 b as the first warm Jupiter (WJ) transiting a cool star.
Potential for Additional Characterization
Atmospheric characterization of TOI-1899 would help us understand the properties of these cool gas giants. TOI-1899 also appears to be slightly inflated when compared to planetary models of gas giants with little heating from the host star. The larger radius in comparison to the known population and existing planetary models may be the result of a planetary composition low in heavy elements, or some atmospheric property could distort heat distribution and result in a larger size. Future missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will have the precision and wavelength coverage to detect atmospheric signatures from TOI-1899 to begin probing its atmospheric properties and understand the apparent discrepancy in size.
TOI-1899 also presents an opportunity to probe the formation of WJs. There are a lot of questions and theories on the formation of both WJs and hot Jupiters (orbital periods < 10 days): Do these objects form exactly where we observe them? Have they migrated due to interactions with the planetary disk? Were they on elliptical orbits and migrated due to tidal interactions with the star? The measurement of the apparent obliquity, or the angle between the star’s equator and the planetary orbit, through the Rossiter-McLaughlin (RM) effect could provide insight as to how TOI-1899 b formed. A direct measurement of the obliquity would limit the physical processes involved during formation, as some mechanisms, such as disk migration, prohibit large obliquity.
We note both atmospheric characterization and a measurement of obliquity require observations during transit. The first step for any additional characterization of TOI-1899 is to determine a precise orbital period. We have continued our photometric and spectroscopic observations of TOI-1899 to obtain a more precise mid-transit time with additional HPF observations and, hopefully, another transit. This will allow us to plan more for subsequent observations during transit to further characterize this cool planet transiting a cool star.