Monthly Exoplanet Paper Roundup: K2-146, System Architectures, a Mass-Period Gap, and Tidally Locked Habitability

Okay, so maybe I haven’t been the most on top of this, but in my defense it’s been a very crazy few months for me. Hopefully will be able to get to this more regularly!

Note that all links are to arXiv papers, which are free and available to the public. You can also follow links from arXiv to the peer-reviewed, published versions when available.

Quick Bites

K2-146 planets b and c, characterized by Lam et al. 2019 and Hamann et al. 2019.

K2-146: Discovery of Planet c, Precise Masses from Transit Timing, and Observed Precession (Hamann et al.) and It takes two planets in resonance to tango around K2-146 (Lam et al.): Dropping onto the arXiv within one day of each other, both these papers detect a new planet, K2-146 c. I read a draft of Aaron’s paper (a fellow UChicago dynamicist) back in the fall, so it just goes to show how much work and time goes into something like this! As you can see from this little plot I made, both teams found similar results, a testament to the accuracy of their methods.

Architectures of Exoplanetary Systems. I: A Clustered Forward Model for Exoplanetary Systems around Kepler’s FGK Stars (Ye et al.): This is a very cool paper that uses clusters to reproduce the observed distribution of Kepler systems, implying that there is some level of intra-system correlation, particularly for periods and multiplicity. They also find that the Kepler dichotomy might be explained by higher mutual inclinations rather than a separate population of single planet systems.

A Gap in the Mass Distribution for Warm Neptune and Terrestrial Planets (Armstrong et al.): One thing that is really exciting to me as the number of detected exoplanets continues to climb is that we can really start to tease out real patterns in the population of planets. Things like the Fulton gap, which was identified in Kepler data. A similar gap is presented in this paper, but it’s defined in the mass-period plane (and doesn’t seem to coincide with the Fulton radius-period gap). Explanation still TBD!

The Bio-habitable Zone and atmospheric properties for Planets of Red Dwarfs (Wandel & Gale): Small, cool stars are the most common type of star, and some of the most promising targets for finding terrestrial planets in the habitable zone. Because the HZ is so close to the star, however, these potentially habitable planets might be tidally locked. This paper dives into whether tidally locked planets can be habitable—spoiler, the answer is YES!

On Milestones and Maladies

This week was a pretty big one for me. On Tuesday, I successfully completed part II of my candidacy exam. So I’m a PhD candidate now! Hurrah!

The exam had been looming over me for some months. Due to scheduling issues within the committee, the date was pushed back to later than it usually occurs. The extra time to prepare was nice, but it was also extra time for anxiety. I’m not the sort of person to put in 80 hour weeks, nor do I think it would have been helpful, but I started to feel a vague sort of guilt anytime I wasn’t studying or working on my candidacy talk or paper. So of course I feel quite relieved now that it is over and done with!

But—there’s always a but—a lot of my anxiety hasn’t gone away. This isn’t totally surprising, as I have been previously diagnosed with anxiety, so this is just part of my life and the way my brain works. It’s still annoying, that I’ve so easily begun now to worry about this new stage of my graduate career. Luckily, I am quite happy with the area I’ve chosen and my current advisor, so I don’t need to worry about changing that. But I do have to organize my thesis committee and at least start to come up with a general idea or theme for my thesis. I’ve been putting off thinking much about this before as a post-candidacy problem…well now it’s post-candidacy, so here are all my delayed worries come to rear their heads.

This is, as far as I can tell, enormously common! Achieving a milestone is wonderful. It can feel very great and relieving. But it can also be anticlimactic in some ways, and after all is said and done, you’re still the same you as before the milestone.

For me, the best thing to do is make a list and keep on going. I don’t have to figure everything out today. Today, I can just enjoy my accomplishment and also check off one new task. Onwards and upwards, but never forgetting how far I’ve come!