Observations of transiting exoplanets

Bochinski, Jakub Jaroslaw (2016). Observations of transiting exoplanets. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f6c6


The field of exoplanetology has evolved significantly from its beginnings in the 1990s, gradually shifting emphasis from the detection of new exoplanets to characterisation of those already discovered. Simultaneously, considerable progress has been made in the area of automatisation of both instruments and data reduction techniques, leading to an ever-growing influx of new data, discoveries and facts about the planets outside of the Solar System. Observations of transiting exoplanets can be divided into two major themes: surveys, designed to find new planetary candidates; and follow-up observations, which offer a chance to learn more about the characteristics of the previously identified candidates and confirm their planetary nature.

In this thesis, I introduce both aspects in the context of the current exoplanetary research, and go on to describe in considerable detail the objects of two observational follow-up projects, planets WASP-12 b and KIC 12557548 b, together with a selection of new techniques I develop to assist in data reduction and analysis of large photometric datasets. In the WASP-12 b study, I use ULTRACAM on the William Herschel Telescope to search in the visible light for the presence of the early ingress signature, observed previously with the Hubble Space Telescope in the near-ultraviolet. I also investigate claims of a transit timing variation in this system. I use the same instruments to carry out KIC 12557548 b observations, with the aim to measure the colour dependence of the extinction and scattering due to the dust in the tail of the putative planet and provide direct evidence in favour of this object being a disrupting low-mass rocky planet, feeding a transiting dust cloud. I also present a new algorithm used to correct for scattered light in astronomical images, ULTRACorrect, and introduce a bespoke photometry pipeline, ULTR APhoto, together with a selection of other methods useful in observations planning and data analysis.

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