Eclipse, transit and occultation geometry of planetary systems at exo-syzygy [EPA]

Although conjunctions and oppositions frequently occur in planetary systems, eclipse-related phenomena are usually described from an Earth-centric perspective. Space missions to different parts of the Solar system, as well as the mounting number of known exo-planets in habitable zones and the possibility of sending featherweight robot spacecraft to them, prompt broader considerations. Here, we derive the geometry of eclipses, transits and occultations from a primarily exo-Earth viewpoint, and apply the formulation to the Solar system and three types of three-body extrasolar planetary systems: with 1 star and 2 planets (Case I), with 2 stars and 1 planet (Case II), and with 1 planet, 1 star and 1 moon (Case III). We derive the general conditions for total, partial and annular eclipses to occur at exo-syzygy, and implement them in each case in concert with stability criteria. We then apply the formalism to the TRAPPIST-1, Kepler-444 and Kepler-77 systems — the first of which contains multiple potentially habitable planets — and provide reference tables of both Solar system and TRAPPIST-1 syzygy properties. We conclude by detailing a basic algebraic algorithm which can be used to quickly characterize eclipse properties in any three-body system.

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D. Veras and E. Breedt
Mon, 13 Mar 17

Comments: Accepted for publication in MNRAS