Recent Publications

“Transit Hunt for Young and Maturing Exoplanets (THYME) VIII: a Pleiades-age association harboring a transiting planet from Kepler”

Barber, Madyson G.; Mann, Andrew W.; Bush, Jonathan L.; et al.; 2022.


Young planets provide a window into the early stages and evolution of planetary systems. Ideal planets for such research are in coeval associations, where the parent population can precisely determine their ages. We describe a young association (MELANGE-3) in the Kepler field, which harbors two transiting planetary systems (KOI-3876 and Kepler-970). We identify MELANGE-3 by searching for kinematic and spatial overdensities around Kepler planet hosts with high levels of lithium. To determine the age and membership of MELANGE-3, we combine new high-resolution spectra with archival light curves, velocities, and astrometry of stars near KOI-3876 spatially and kinematically. We use the resulting rotation sequence, lithium levels, and color–magnitude diagram of candidate members to confirm the presence of a coeval 105 ± 10 Myr population. MELANGE-3 may be part of the recently identified Theia 316 stream. For the two exoplanet systems, we revise the stellar and planetary parameters, taking into account the newly determined age. Fitting the 4.5 yr Kepler light curves, we find that KOI-3876b is a 2.0 ± 0.1 R⊕ planet on a 19.58 day orbit, while Kepler-970 b is a 2.8 ± 0.2 R⊕ planet on a 16.73 day orbit. KOI-3876 was previously flagged as an eclipsing binary, which we rule out using radial velocities from APOGEE and statistically validate the signal as planetary in origin. Given its overlap with the Kepler field, MELANGE-3 is valuable for studies of spot evolution on year timescales, and both planets contribute to the growing work on transiting planets in young stellar associations.

In Review: “Using Gaia excess uncertainty as a proxy for stellar variability and age”

Barber, Madyson G. & Mann, Andrew W.; 2023.


Stars are known to be more active when they are young, resulting in a strong correlation between age and photometric variability. The amplitude variation between stars of a given age is large, but the age-variability relation becomes strong over large groups of stars. We explore this relation using the excess photometric uncertainty in Gaia photometry (V arG, V arBP , and V arRP ) as a proxy for variability. The metrics follow a Skumanich-like relation, scaling as ≃ t−0.4. By calibrating against a set of associations with known ages, we show how V ar of population members can predict group ages within 10-20% for associations younger than ≃2.5 Gyr. In practice, age uncertainties are larger, primarily due to finite group size. The index is most useful at the youngest ages (<100 Myr), where the uncertainties are comparable to or better than derived from a color-magnitude diagram. The index is also widely available, easy to calculate, and can be used at intermediate ages where there are few or no pre- or post-main-sequence stars. We further show how V ar can be used to find new associations and test if a group of co-moving stars is a real co-eval population. We apply our methods on the Theia groups within 350 pc and find ≳90% are inconsistent with drawing stars from the field and ≃80% have variability ages consistent with those derived from the CMD. Our finding suggest the great majority of these groups contain real populations.

“TESS Hunt for Young and Maturing Exoplanets (THYME). IX. A 27 Myr Extended Population of Lower Centaurus Crux with a Transiting Two-planet System”

Wood, Mackenna L.; Mann, Andrew W.; Barber, Madyson G.; et al.; 2023.


We report the discovery and characterization of a nearby (∼85 pc), older (27 ± 3 Myr), distributed stellar population near Lower Centaurus Crux (LCC), initially identified by searching for stars comoving with a candidate transiting planet from TESS (HD 109833; TOI 1097). We determine the association membership using Gaia kinematics, color–magnitude information, and rotation periods of candidate members. We measure its age using isochrones, gyrochronology, and Li depletion. While the association is near known populations of LCC, we find that it is older than any previously found LCC subgroup (10–16 Myr), and distinct in both position and velocity. In addition to the candidate planets around HD 109833, the association contains four directly imaged planetary-mass companions around three stars, YSES-1, YSES-2, and HD 95086, all of which were previously assigned membership in the younger LCC. Using the Notch pipeline, we identify a second candidate transiting planet around HD 109833. We use a suite of ground-based follow-up observations to validate the two transit signals as planetary in nature. HD 109833 b and c join the small but growing population of <100 Myr transiting planets from TESS. HD 109833 has a rotation period and Li abundance indicative of a young age (≲100 Myr), but a position and velocity on the outskirts of the new population, lower Li levels than similar members, and a color–magnitude diagram position below model predictions for 27 Myr. So, we cannot reject the possibility that HD 109833 is a young field star coincidentally nearby the population.

“TESS Hunt for Young and Maturing Exoplanets (THYME) VI: an 11 Myr giant planet transiting a very low-mass star in Lower Centaurus Crux”

Mann, Andrew W.; Wood, Mackenna L.; Schmidt, Stephen P.; Barber, Madyson G.; et al.; 2021.


Mature super-Earths and sub-Neptunes are predicted to be ≃Jovian radius when younger than 10 Myr. Thus, we expect to find 5-15R⊕ planets around young stars even if their older counterparts harbor none. We report the discovery and validation of TOI 1227 b, a 0.85±0.05RJ (9.5R⊕) planet transiting a very low-mass star (0.170±0.015M⊙) every 27.4 days. TOI 1227's kinematics and strong lithium absorption confirm it is a member of a previously discovered sub-group in the Lower Centaurus Crux OB association, which we designate the Musca group. We derive an age of 11±2 Myr for Musca, based on lithium, rotation, and the color-magnitude diagram of Musca members. The TESS data and ground-based followup show a deep (2.5%) transit. We use multiwavelength transit observations and radial velocities from the IGRINS spectrograph to validate the signal as planetary in nature, and we obtain an upper limit on the planet mass of ≃0.5MJ. Because such large planets are exceptionally rare around mature low-mass stars, we suggest that TOI 1227 b is still contracting and will eventually turn into one of the more common <5R⊕ planets.

Last Updated: February 2023