Smallest Planet Yet Found Circling a Main Sequence Star (other than our sun)

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2005

image Astrophysics, abstract

From: Eugenio Rivera [view email]
Date (v1): Tue, 18 Oct 2005 01:16:36 GMT   (578kb)
Date (revised v2): Tue, 18 Oct 2005 22:21:41 GMT   (574kb)
A ~ 7.5 Earth-Mass Planet Orbiting the Nearby Star, GJ 876

Authors: E. J. Rivera, J. J. Lissauer, R. P. Butler, G. W. Marcy, S. S. Vogt, D. A. Fischer, T. M. Brown, G. Laughlin, G. W. Henry
Comments: 49 pages, 16 figures, 1 electronic table available upon request

High precision, high cadence radial velocity monitoring over the past 8 years at the W. M. Keck Observatory reveals evidence for a third planet orbiting the nearby (4.69 pc) dM4 star GJ 876. The residuals of three-body Newtonian fits, which include GJ 876 and Jupiter mass companions b and c, show significant power at a periodicity of 1.9379 days. Self-consistently fitting the radial velocity data with a model that includes an additional body with this period significantly improves the quality of the fit. These four-body (three-planet) Newtonian fits find that the minimum mass of companion ``d'' is m sin i = 5.89 +- 0.54 Earth masses and that its orbital period is 1.93776 (+- 7x10^-5) days. Assuming coplanar orbits, an inclination of the GJ 876 planetary system to the plane of the sky of ~ 50 degrees gives the best fit. This inclination yields a mass for companion d of m = 7.53 +- 0.70 Earth masses, making it by far the lowest mass companion yet found around a main sequence star other than our Sun. Precise photometric observations at Fairborn Observatory confirm low-level brightness variability in GJ 876 and provide the first explicit determination of the star's 96.7-day rotation period. Even higher precision short-term photometric measurements obtained at Las Campanas imply that planet d does not transit GJ 876.
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