Posts Tagged ‘MHD’

The latest anomalies

June 8th, 2012 3 comments

Photographed at UCSC Art Dept. Spring 2012 Open Studios

The announcement of new transiting hot-Jupiter type planets, such as WASP 79b or HAT-P-38b, by the ground-based surveys no longer generates press releases, but the march of discovery does give us an ever-clearer view of the planetary census.

Yesterday, Matteo Crismani turned in his UCSC Senior Thesis. In addition to the results that we published in our 2011 paper (described in this post and this post) he also took an updated look at the relationship between the radius anomaly (the fractional discrepancy between the theoretically predicted radius and the actual observed radius) and the insolation-derived effective temperature of the planet. With the large aggregate of hot Jupiter-class planets that now have good measurements for both planetary mass and planetary radius, the dependence of the radius anomaly on the planetary temperature has grown clearer.

The best fit power-law now has the radius anomaly scaling as T^2.9, with an uncertainty on the exponent of ~0.3. This is quite close to the T^2.6 relation that stems from the back-of-the-envelope arguments that invoke the Batygin-Stevenson Ohmic heating mechanism. In effect, these hot Jupiters are like Ball Park Franks…

Hot enough for ya?

September 7th, 2009 4 comments

A recent article in Nature reports that WASP-18b has emerged victorious in the ongoing exoplanetary limbo competition.

WASP-18b is also a strong contender in the least-habitable-planet-yet-detected competition. It has a mass roughly ten times Jupiter’s and skims 2.6 stellar radii above the surface of the parent star. The orbital period is a mere 22 hours 36 minutes. A year in less than a day.

To the offhand glance, even the simple presence of the planet seems puzzling. It’s so close to its parent star that tidal orbital decay should haul it in for destruction on a timescale that’s alarmingly short in comparison to the ~1 billion year age of the parent star. Either WASP-18b has been found on the very cusp of its dénouement (which seems unlikely) or tidal dissipation in the parent star is much lower than in a star like the Sun.

Darin Ragozzine pointed me to to a recent article by Barker and Ogilvie that indicates that WASP-18 may indeed be very poor at dissipating tidal energy. It’s an F-type star, somewhat more massive than the sun, with a negligible convective envelope, and no good recourse to turning tidal waves into heat. It’s like a bell that can ring and ring without making a sound. According to Barker and Ogilvie, similarly inviscid F-type parent stars are also responsible for the survival of WASP-12 and OGLE-TR-56b. Their prediction for WASP-18b would be that changes in the orbital period will not be observable, even with the excellent precision that will be obtained by timing the orbit over periods of a decade or more.

Darin also pointed out something else that’s pretty cool. As is also the case with HD 209458b and HD 189733b, the transit of WASP-18b is readily visible in the archived photometry from the Hipparcos mission. Indeed, the planet has been sitting in open view on the web for well over a decade, assuming, of course, that one knew exactly where to look. To see it with 20-20 hindsight, use the folding applet provided at the Hipparcos web site. Enter the Hipparcos catalog number (7562) for the parent star, and fold the 130 published photometric measurements at the 0.94145299 day orbital period. Can you see the transit?

On worlds like WASP-18b, surface temperatures are well in excess of 2000 K. Under such conditions, the ionization fraction is high enough that the planetary magnetic field can affect the weather.

On Earth, where air is composed of neutral atoms and molecules, the wind blows right through magnetic field lines. By contrast, on WASP-18b, the ionization fraction is high enough that the winds will have a tendency to drag the planetary magnetic field lines along. This stretches the field lines, and like rubber bands, they offer a restoring force. Whereas ordinary exoplanetary weather can be described using the equations of hydrodynamics, on an ultra-hot Jupiter, the richer behavior of magnetohydrodynamics comes into play. As a consequence, I have little intuitive sense of what’s going on at the sub-stellar point of WASP-18b, but I’ve got little doubt that it’s interesting and complicated.

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sts starts stis

May 18th, 2009 1 comment

Image Source.

My colleague Garth Illingworth, who is well connected to the Space Telescope Science Institute, sent an e-mail to the UCSC Department this morning that details the ongoing repair and refurbishment of the Hubble Space Telescope.

HST repair day 4 EVA is ending. STIS repair done and aliveness test shows that it is working. Full functional needed to verify but early indications good. COS is looking good so hopefully we will have two uv spectrographs.

Tests on ACS during the crew sleep last night showed that the WFC camera is working and that it passed its initial functional tests – with preliminary results suggesting that read noise is possibly lower than before. The combination of ACS, WFC3 IR and WFC3 UV-Optical will make HST’s imaging capability the best ever.

The ACS HRC cannot be recovered due to the location of the short in the power path (location unknown before powering up ACS last night – so the hoped-for “back-powering” approach for HRC did not work out).

So we are 4 for 4 on instrument repair! A remarkable effort by the NASA GSFC/STScI folks who brought all this to fruition, along with the flight teams and the astronauts.

The bit of good news that really caught my eye was the apparently successful repair of the STIS imaging spectrograph. Before its failure in 2004, the STIS spectrograph (which can operate in both the visible and the ultraviolet) was used to make the iconic transit light curve of HD 209458, and to make the first measurements of the atmospheric contents of hot Jupiters.

In 2003, STIS was also employed to observe the transit of HD 209458b in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum surrounding the Lyman-alpha line of hydrogen (paper). The data suggest that the HD 209458 b transit has a depth of order 15% in Lyman alpha, indicating that a comet-like wind of hydrogen is flowing off the planet. The press releases surrounding this event produced perhaps the most dreadful artist’s impression in the entire exoplanetary canon, here’s a more restrained cartoon that shows the basic idea:

The deep Lyman-Alpha transit depth of HD 209458 has remained something of a mystery, and it will be very exciting to observe the transits of other planets in the UV. In particular, the results for progressively more eccentric planets such as X0-3, HAT-P-2b, HD 17156b, and HD 80606b should be very informative. If the irradiation varies drastically over the course of an orbit, how is the wind flow affected? It’s always nice when there’s an opportunity to set forth an eminently falsifiable prediction…

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