Detecting Exoplanets Using Eclipsing Binaries as Natural Starshades

Stefano Bellotti, Ann I. Zabludoff, Ruslan Belikov, Olivier Guyon, Chirag Rathi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We investigate directly imaging exoplanets around eclipsing binaries using the eclipse as a natural tool for dimming the binary and thus increasing the planet to star brightness contrast. At eclipse, the binary becomes pointlike, making coronagraphy possible. We select binaries where the planet-star contrast would be boosted by >10× during eclipse, making it possible to detect a planet that is ⪆10× fainter or in a star system that is ∼2-3× more massive than otherwise. Our approach will yield insights into planet occurrence rates around binaries versus individual stars. We consider both self-luminous (SL) and reflected light (RL) planets. In the SL case, we select binaries whose age is young enough so that an orbiting SL planet would remain luminous; in U Cep and AC Sct, respectively, our method is sensitive to SL planets of ∼4.5 and ∼9 M J with current ground- or near-future space-based instruments and ∼1.5 and ∼6 M J with future ground-based observatories. In the RL case, there are three nearby (≲50 pc) systems - V1412 Aql, RR Cae, and RT Pic - around which a Jupiter-like planet at a planet-star separation of ⪆20 mas might be imaged with future ground- and space-based coronagraphs. A Venus-like planet at the same distance might be detectable around RR Cae and RT Pic. A habitable Earth-like planet represents a challenge; while the planet-star contrast at eclipse and planet flux are accessible with a 6-8 m space telescope, the planet-star separation is 1/3-1/4 of the angular separation limit of modern coronagraphy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume160
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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