An intriguing, growing class of planets are the "super-puffs," objects with exceptionally large radii for their masses and thus correspondingly low densities (≲0.3 g cm-3). Here we consider whether they could have large inferred radii because they are in fact ringed. This would naturally explain why super-puffs have thus far only shown featureless transit spectra. We find that this hypothesis can work in some cases but not all. The close proximity of the super-puffs to their parent stars necessitates rings with a rocky rather than icy composition. This limits the radius of the rings, and makes it challenging to explain the large size of Kepler 51b, 51c, 51d, and 79d unless the rings are composed of porous material. Furthermore, the short tidal locking timescales for Kepler 18d, 223d, and 223e mean that these planets may be spinning too slowly, resulting in a small oblateness and rings that are warped by their parent star. Kepler 87c and 177c have the best chance of being explained by rings. Using transit simulations, we show that testing this hypothesis requires photometry with a precision of somewhere between ∼10 ppm and ∼50 ppm, which roughly scales with the ratio of the planet and star's radii. We conclude with a note about the recently discovered super-puff HIP 41378f.
The Astronomical Journal
- Pub Date:
- April 2020
- Exoplanet rings;
- Exoplanet detection methods;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- 10 pages, 9 figures, updated with minor changes to match version accepted for publication in AJ