Friday, July 26, 2013

1307.6722 (M. Gillon et al.)

Search for a habitable terrestrial planet transiting the nearby red dwarf GJ 1214    [PDF]

M. Gillon, B. -O. Demory, N. Madhusudhan, D. Deming, S. Seager, H. A. Knutson, A. Lanotte, X. Bonfils, J. -M. Desert, L. Delrez, E. Jehin, J. D. Fraine, P. Magain, A. H. M. J. Triaud
High-precision eclipse spectrophotometry of transiting terrestrial exoplanets represents a promising path for the first atmospheric characterizations of habitable worlds and the search for life outside our solar system. The detection of terrestrial planets transiting nearby late-type M-dwarfs could make this approach applicable within the next decade, with near-to-come general facilities. In this context, we previously identified GJ 1214 as a high-priority target for a transit search, as the transit probability of a habitable planet orbiting this nearby M4.5 dwarf would be significantly enhanced by the transiting nature of GJ 1214 b, the super-Earth already known to orbit the star. Basing on this observation, we have set-up an ambitious high-precision photometric monitoring of GJ 1214 with the Spitzer Space Telescope to probe its entire habitable zone in search of a transiting planet as small as Mars. We present here the results of this transit search. Unfortunately, we did not detect any second transiting planet. Assuming GJ 1214 hosts a habitable planet larger than Mars, our global analysis of the whole Spitzer dataset leads to a posterior no-transit probability >=97%. Our analysis allows us to significantly improve the characterization of GJ 1214 b, to measure its occultation depth to be 70+-35 ppm at 4.5 microns, and to constrain it to be smaller than 205ppm (3-sigma upper limit) at 3.6 microns. In agreement with the plethora of transmission measurements published so far for GJ 1214 b, these emission measurements are consistent with both a metal-rich and a cloudy hydrogen-rich atmosphere.
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