The mass of Kepler-93b and the composition of terrestrial-type exoplanets

kepler-planet-candidatesMore than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Image credit: NASA Ames

In a new preprint today Dressing et al. have measured a high density for this planet using archival radial velocity measurements to derive a precise mass. The paper is entitled “The Mass of Kepler-93b and The Composition of Terrestrial Planets” has been accepted to the Astrophysical Journal. Overall the Kepler data seem to suggest a rough cutoff around six Earth masses, above which much lower densities are derived, suggesting the presence of extensive hydrogen and helium envelopes. Above this approximate mass high density iron/silicate terrestrial-type planets appear rare. From the abstract:

Kepler-93b is a 1.478 +/- 0.019 Earth radius planet with a 4.7 day period around a bright (V=10.2), astroseismically-characterized host star with a mass of 0.911+/-0.033 solar masses and a radius of 0.919+/-0.011 solar radii. Based on 86 radial velocity observations obtained with the HARPS-N spectrograph on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo and 32 archival Keck/HIRES observations, we present a precise mass estimate of 4.02+/-0.68 Earth masses. The corresponding high density of 6.88+/-1.18 g/cc is consistent with a rocky composition of primarily iron and magnesium silicate. We compare Kepler-93b to other dense planets with well-constrained parameters and find that between 1-6 Earth masses, all dense planets including the Earth and Venus are well-described by the same fixed ratio of iron to magnesium silicate. There are as of yet no examples of such planets with masses > 6 Earth masses: All known planets in this mass regime have lower densities requiring significant fractions of volatiles or H/He gas. We also constrain the mass and period of the outer companion in the Kepler-93 system from the long-term radial velocity trend and archival adaptive optics images. As the sample of dense planets with well-constrained masses and radii continues to grow, we will be able to test whether the fixed compositional model found for the seven dense planets considered in this paper extends to the full population of 1-6 Earth mass planets.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: