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The Astrophysics of Visible-light Orbital Phase Curves in the Space Age

Shporer, Avi (2017) The Astrophysics of Visible-light Orbital Phase Curves in the Space Age. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 129 (977). Art. No. 072001. ISSN 0004-6280. doi:10.1088/1538-3873/aa7112.

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The field of visible-light continuous time series photometry is now at its golden age, manifested by the continuum of past (CoRoT, Kepler), present (K2), and future (TESS, PLATO) space-based surveys delivering high precision data with a long baseline for a large number of stars. The availability of the high-quality data has enabled astrophysical studies not possible before, including, for example, detailed asteroseismic investigations and the study of the exoplanet census including small planets. This has also allowed to study the minute photometric variability following the orbital motion in stellar binaries and star-planet systems which is the subject of this review. We focus on systems with a main sequence primary and a low-mass secondary, from a small star to a massive planet. The orbital modulations are induced by a combination of gravitational and atmospheric processes, including the beaming effect, tidal ellipsoidal distortion, reflected light, and thermal emission. Therefore, the phase curve shape contains information about the companion's mass and atmospheric characteristics, making phase curves a useful astrophysical tool. For example, phase curves can be used to detect and measure the mass of short-period low-mass companions orbiting hot fast-rotating stars out of reach of other detection methods. Another interesting application of phase curves is using the orbital phase modulations to look for non-transiting systems, which comprise the majority of stellar binary and star-planet systems. We discuss the science done with phase curves, the first results obtained so far, and the current difficulties and open questions related to this young and evolving subfield.

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Shporer, Avi0000-0002-1836-3120
Additional Information:© 2017 The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Received 2017 February 17; accepted 2017 April 19; published 2017 May 30. I am grateful to the anonymous referee for the thorough reading of the manuscript and useful comments that helped improve it. While preparing this manuscript, I have benefitted from discussions and feedback from numerous colleagues, including Jim Fuller, Renyu Hu, Heather Knutson, Daniel Koll, Yossi Schwartzvald, Lev Tal-Or, and Ian Wong. I warmly thank Steven Bloemen, Simchon Faigler, and Josh Winn for providing comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This work was performed in part at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, under contract with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. This research has made use of NASA's Astrophysics Data System Service.
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Subject Keywords:binaries: general – planetary systems – techniques: photometric
Issue or Number:977
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170531-103507276
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Official Citation:Avi Shporer 2017 PASP 129 072001
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:77850
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:31 May 2017 18:14
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 17:34

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