Towards Detection of Exoplanetary Rings Via Transit Photometry: Methodology and a Possible Candidate [EPA]

Detection of a planetary ring of exoplanets remains as one of the most attractive but challenging goals in the field. We present a methodology of a systematic search for exoplanetary rings via transit photometry of long-period planets. The methodology relies on a precise integration scheme we develop to compute a transit light curve of a ringed planet. We apply the methodology to 89 long-period planet candidates from the Kepler data so as to estimate, and/or set upper limits on, the parameters of possible rings. While a majority of our samples do not have a sufficiently good signal-to-noise ratio for meaningful constraints on ring parameters, we find that six systems with a higher signal-to-noise ratio are inconsistent with the presence of a ring larger than 1.5 times the planetary radius assuming a grazing orbit and a tilted ring. Furthermore, we identify five preliminary candidate systems whose light curves exhibit ring-like features. After removing four false positives due to the contamination from nearby stars, we identify KIC 10403228 as a reasonable candidate for a ringed planet. A systematic parameter fit of its light curve with a ringed planet model indicates two possible solutions corresponding to a Saturn-like planet with a tilted ring. There also remain other two possible scenarios accounting for the data; a circumstellar disk and a hierarchical triple. Due to large uncertain factors, we cannot choose one specific model among the three.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Aizawa, S. Uehara, K. Masuda, et. al.
Tue, 28 Feb 17

Comments: 45 pages, 20 figures, accepted for publication in AJ