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J. H. Steffen, E. Agol (University of Washington)
We present the development and application of a new planet detection technique that uses the transit timing of a known, transiting planet. The transits of a solitary planet orbiting a star occur at equally spaced intervals in time. If a second planet is present, then dynamical interactions within the system will cause the time interval between transits to vary. These transit time variations (TTV) can be used to infer the orbital elements and mass of the unseen, perturbing planet. In some cases, particularly near mean-motion resonances, this technique could detect planets with masses less than the mass of the Earth---a capability not yet achieved by other planet detection schemes. We present an analysis of the set of transit times of the TrES-1 system given by Charbonneau et al. (2005). While no convincing evidence for a second planet in the TrES-1 system was found from that data, we constrain the mass that a perturbing planet could have as a function of the semi-major axis ratio of the two planets and the eccentricity of the perturbing planet. Near low-order, mean-motion resonances (within about 1% fractional deviation), we find that a secondary planet must generally have a mass comparable to or less than the mass of the Earth--showing that this data is the first to have sensitivity to sub Earth-mass planets. We present results from our studies that use simulated data and from an ongoing analysis of the HD209458 system. These results show that TTV will be an important tool in the detection and characterization of extrasolar planetary systems.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.