PI: Steve B. Howell, NASA ARC, email@example.com
Address: Astrophysics, P.O. Box 1 M/S 244-30, Moffett Field, CA 94035, US
CoI: Mark Everett, NOAO
CoI: Elliott Horch, Southern Connecticut State University
CoI: David Ciardi, Caltech / NexSci
Title: High-resolution Speckle Imaging of Kepler Exoplanet Host Stars - Validation of Neptune-size, Multi-Planet Systems
Abstract: Kepler monitors 150,000 stars and detects candidate transiting planets by their light curve signatures. In order to distinguish true planets from eclipsing binaries or other false positives, it is necessary to account for stars whose profiles may blend together and contribute flux to Kepler's photometry. Some blends can be detected and false positives eliminated based on Kepler data alone, but for most cases, high resolution imaging is required to detect (or not) a confounding companion star. While Earth-sized exoplanets in long period orbits are hard to validate and radial velocities will not be forthcoming, false positive elimination relies heavily on ground-based speckle imaging coupled with the Kepler data itself and model techniques. This proposal plans to obtain the first high-res images of Kepler exoplanet transit candidates in order to completely validate exoplanets that 1) are multiple planet system and contain at least one large planet (>3 R_e) and, by proxy, allow validation of their smaller companions, and 2) contain large planet(s) (>3 R_e) residing in the habitable zone which may harbor habitable moons. Additionally, third-light dilution to a true planet transit can lead to an underestimate of the exoplanet radii and masses by 10-15% and 60% or more respectively.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, Arizona 85726, Phone: (520) 318-8000, Fax: (520) 318-8360