Selected Publications

BYU Authors: Darin Ragozzine, published in Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac.
Radial velocity (RV) surveys have detected hundreds of exoplanets through their gravitational interactions with their host stars. Some will be transiting, but most lack sufficient follow-up observations to confidently detect (or rule out) transits. We use published stellar, orbital, and planetary parameters to estimate the transit probabilities for nearly all exoplanets that have been discovered via the RV method. From these probabilities, we predict that  of the known RV exoplanets should transit their host stars. This prediction is more than double the amount of RV exoplanets that are currently known to transit. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) presents a valuable opportunity to explore the transiting nature of many of the known RV exoplanet systems. Based on the anticipated pointing of TESS during its two-year primary mission, we identify the known RV exoplanets that it will observe and predict that  of them will have transits detected by TESS. However, we only expect the discovery of transits for ∼3 of these exoplanets to be novel (i.e., not previously known). We predict that the TESS photometry will yield dispositive null results for the transits of ∼125 RV exoplanets. This will represent a substantial increase in the effort to refine ephemerides of known RV exoplanets. We demonstrate that these results are robust to changes in the ecliptic longitudes of future TESS observing sectors. Finally, we consider how several potential TESS extended mission scenarios affect the number of transiting RV exoplanets we expect TESS to observe.
BYU Authors: D. Ragozzine, published in Icarus
We present high spatial resolution images of the binary transneptunian object Gǃkúnǁ'hòmdímà (229762 2007 UK126) obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope and with the Keck observatory on Mauna Kea to determine the orbit of Gǃò'é ǃhúGǃò'é ǃhú, the much smaller and redder satellite. Gǃò'é ǃhú orbits in a prograde sense, on a circular or near-circular orbit with a period of 11.3 days and a semimajor axis of 6000 km. Tidal evolution is expected to be slow, so it is likely that the system formed already in a low-eccentricity configuration, and possibly also with the orbit plane of the satellite in or close to the plane of Gǃkúnǁ'hòmdímà's equator. From the orbital parameters we can compute the system mass to be 1.4 × 1020 kg. Combined with estimates of the size of Gǃkúnǁ'hòmdímà from thermal observations and stellar occultations, we can estimate the bulk density as about 1 g cm−3. This low density is indicative of an ice-rich composition, unless there is substantial internal porosity. We consider the hypothesis that the composition is not unusually ice-rich compared with larger TNOs and comet nuclei, and instead the porosity is high, suggesting that mid-sized objects in the 400 to 1000 km diameter range mark the transition between small, porous objects and larger objects that have collapsed their internal void space as a result of their much higher internal pressures and temperatures.
BYU Authors: Darin Ragozzine, published in Astron. J.
We present a new framework to characterize the occurrence rates of planet candidates identified by Kepler based on hierarchical Bayesian modeling, approximate Bayesian computing (ABC), and sequential importance sampling. For this study, we adopt a simple 2D grid in planet radius and orbital period as our model and apply our algorithm to estimate occurrence rates for Q1–Q16 planet candidates orbiting solar-type stars. We arrive at significantly increased planet occurrence rates for small planet candidates ( R p  80 day) compared to the rates estimated by the more common inverse detection efficiency method (IDEM). Our improved methodology estimates that the occurrence rate density of small planet candidates in the habitable zone of solar-type stars is ##IMG## [] {${1.6}_{-0.5}^{+1.2}$} per factor of 2 in planet radius and orbital period. Additionally, we observe a local minimum in the occurrence rate for strong planet candidates marginalized over orbital period between 1.5 and 2 R ⊕ that is consistent with previous studies. For future improvements, the forward modeling approach of ABC is ideally suited to incorporating multiple populations, such as planets, astrophysical false positives, and pipeline false alarms, to provide accurate planet occurrence rates and uncertainties. Furthermore, ABC provides a practical statistical framework for answering complex questions (e.g., frequency of different planetary architectures) and providing sound uncertainties, even in the face of complex selection effects, observational biases, and follow-up strategies. In summary, ABC offers a powerful tool for accurately characterizing a wide variety of astrophysical populations.
BYU Authors: Darin Ragozzine, published in Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser.
We present the Kepler Object of Interest (KOI) catalog of transiting exoplanets based on searching 4 yr of Kepler time series photometry (Data Release 25, Q1–Q17). The catalog contains 8054 KOIs, of which 4034 are planet candidates with periods between 0.25 and 632 days. Of these candidates, 219 are new, including two in multiplanet systems (KOI-82.06 and KOI-2926.05) and 10 high-reliability, terrestrial-size, habitable zone candidates. This catalog was created using a tool called the Robovetter, which automatically vets the DR25 threshold crossing events (TCEs). The Robovetter also vetted simulated data sets and measured how well it was able to separate TCEs caused by noise from those caused by low signal-to-noise transits. We discuss the Robovetter and the metrics it uses to sort TCEs. For orbital periods less than 100 days the Robovetter completeness (the fraction of simulated transits that are determined to be planet candidates) across all observed stars is greater than 85%. For the same period range, the catalog reliability (the fraction of candidates that are not due to instrumental or stellar noise) is greater than 98%. However, for low signal-to-noise candidates between 200 and 500 days around FGK-dwarf stars, the Robovetter is 76.7% complete and the catalog is 50.5% reliable. The KOI catalog, the transit fits, and all of the simulated data used to characterize this catalog are available at the NASA Exoplanet Archive.
BYU Authors: Darin Ragozzine, published in Astrophys. J. Lett.
We report the discovery of an H r  = 3.4 ± 0.1 dwarf planet candidate by the Pan-STARRS Outer Solar System Survey. 2010 JO179 is red with (g − r) = 0.88 ± 0.21, roughly round, and slowly rotating, with a period of 30.6 hr. Estimates of its albedo imply a diameter of 600–900 km. Observations sampling the span between 2005 and 2016 provide an exceptionally well determined orbit for 2010 JO179, with a semimajor axis of 78.307 ± 0.009 au; distant orbits known to this precision are rare. We find that 2010 JO179 librates securely within the 21:5 mean-motion resonance with Neptune on 100 Myr timescales, joining the small but growing set of known distant dwarf planets on metastable resonant orbits. These imply a substantial trans-Neptunian population that shifts between stability in high-order resonances, the detached population, and the eroding population of the scattering disk.
BYU Authors: Darin Ragozzine, published in Mon. Not. Roy. Astron. Soc.
We use numerical simulations to measure the sensitivity of the tidal spin-down rate of a homogeneous triaxial ellipsoid to its axis ratios by comparing the drift rate in orbital semimajor axis to that of a spherical body with the same mass, volume and simulated rheology. We use a mass-spring model approximating a viscoelastic body spinning around its shortest body axis, with spin aligned with orbital spin axis, and in circular orbit about a point mass. The torque or drift rate can be estimated from that predicted for a sphere with equivalent volume if multiplied by $0.5 (1 + b^4/a^4)(b/a)^{-4/3} (c/a)^{-\alpha _c}$ where b/a and c/a are the body axis ratios and index αc ≈ 1.05 is consistent with the random lattice mass-spring model simulations but αc = 4/3 suggested by scaling estimates. A homogeneous body with axis ratios 0.5 and 0.8, like Haumea, has orbital semimajor axis drift rate about twice as fast as a spherical body with the same mass, volume and material properties. A simulation approximating a mostly rocky body but with 20 per cent of its mass as ice concentrated at its ends has a drift rate 10 times faster than the equivalent homogeneous rocky sphere. However, this increase in drift rate is not enough to allow Haumea's satellite, Hi'iaka, to have tidally drifted away from Haumea to its current orbital semimajor axis.