Constraints on Planet Occurrence Around Nearby Mid-to-Late M Dwarfs From the Mearth Project
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CitationBerta, Zachory K., Jonathan Irwin, and David Charbonneau. 2013. Constraints on Planet Occurrence Around Nearby Mid-to-Late M Dwarfs From the Mearth Project. The Astrophysical Journal 775, no. 2: 91. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/775/2/91.
AbstractThe MEarth Project is a ground-based photometric survey intended to find planets transiting the closest and smallest main-sequence stars. In its first four years, MEarth discovered one transiting exoplanet, the 2.7 R⊕ planet GJ1214b. Here, we answer an outstanding question: in light of the bounty of small planets transiting small stars uncovered by the Kepler mission, should MEarth have found more than just one planet so far? We estimate MEarth’s ensemble sensitivity to exoplanets by performing end-to-end simulations of 1.25 × 106 observations of 988 nearby mid-tolate M dwarfs, gathered by MEarth between 2008 October and 2012 June. For 2–4 R⊕ planets, we compare this sensitivity to results from Kepler and find that MEarth should have found planets at a rate of 0.05–0.36 planets yr−1 in its first four years. As part of this analysis, we provide new analytic fits to the Kepler early M dwarf planet occurrence distribution. When extrapolating between Kepler’s early M dwarfs and MEarth’s mid-to-late M dwarfs, we find that assuming the planet occurrence distribution stays fixed with respect to planetary equilibrium temperature provides a good match to our detection of a planet with GJ1214b’s observed properties. For larger planets, we find that the warm (600–700 K), Neptune-sized (4 R⊕) exoplanets that transit early M dwarfs like Gl436 and GJ3470 occur at a rate of <0.15 star−1 (at 95% confidence) around MEarth’s later M dwarf targets. We describe a strategy with which MEarth can increase its expected planet yield by 2.5 × without new telescopes by shifting its sensitivity toward the smaller and cooler exoplanets that Kepler has demonstrated to be abundant.
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