Exoplanet research focusing on the characterization of super-Earths is currently limited to the handful of targets orbiting bright stars that are amenable to detailed study. This Letter proposes to look at alternative avenues to probe the surface and atmospheric properties of this category of planets, known to be ubiquitous in our galaxy. I conduct Markov Chain Monte Carlo light-curves analyses for 97 Kepler close-in RP <~ 2.0 R ⊕ super-Earth candidates with the aim of detecting their occultations at visible wavelengths. Brightness temperatures and geometric albedos in the Kepler bandpass are constrained for 27 super-Earth candidates. A hierarchical Bayesian modeling approach is then employed to characterize the population-level reflective properties of these close-in super-Earths. I find median geometric albedos Ag in the Kepler bandpass ranging between 0.16 and 0.30, once decontaminated from thermal emission. These super-Earth geometric albedos are statistically larger than for hot Jupiters, which have medians Ag ranging between 0.06 and 0.11. A subset of objects, including Kepler-10b, exhibit significantly larger albedos (Ag >~ 0.4). I argue that a better understanding of the incidence of stellar irradation on planetary surface and atmospheric processes is key to explain the diversity in albedos observed for close-in super-Earths.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- July 2014
- planetary systems;
- techniques: photometric;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- ApJ Letters, in press. 6 pages, 3 figures and 1 table