Journal Article

Periastron precession measurements in transiting extrasolar planetary systems at the level of general relativity

András Pál and Bence Kocsis

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 389, issue 1, pages 191-198
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Periastron precession measurements in transiting extrasolar planetary systems at the level of general relativity

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Transiting exoplanetary systems are surpassingly important among the planetary systems since they provide the widest spectrum of information for both the planet and the host star. If a transiting planet is on an eccentric orbit, the duration of transits TD is sensitive to the orientation of the orbital ellipse relative to the line of sight. The precession of the orbit results in a systematic variation in both the duration of individual transit events and the observed period between successive transits, Pobs. The periastron of the ellipse slowly precesses due to general relativity and possibly the presence of other planets in the system. This secular precession can be detected through the long-term change in Pobs (transit timing variations, TTV) or in TD (transit duration variations, TDV). We estimate the corresponding precession measurement precision for repeated future observations of the known eccentric transiting exoplanetary systems (XO-3b, HD 147506b, GJ 436b and HD 17156b) using existing or planned space-borne instruments. The TDV measurement improves the precession detection sensitivity by orders of magnitude over the TTV measurement. We find that TDV measurements over a approximately 4 yr period can typically detect the precession rate to a precision well exceeding the level predicted by general relativity.

Keywords: relativity; methods: observational; techniques: photometric; binaries: eclipsing; planetary systems

Journal Article.  5440 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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