The discovery of over 200 extrasolar planets with the radial velocity (RV) technique has revealed that many giant planets have large eccentricities, in striking contrast with most of the planets in the solar system and prior theories of planet formation. The realization that many giant planets have large eccentricities raises a fundamental question: "Do terrestrial-size planets of other stars typically have significantly eccentric orbits or nearly circular orbits like the Earth?" Here we demonstrate that photometric observations of transiting planets could be used to characterize the orbital eccentricities for individual transiting planets, as well as the eccentricity distribution for various populations of transiting planets (e.g., those with a certain range of orbital periods or physical sizes). Such characterizations can provide valuable constraints on theories for the excitation of eccentricities and tidal dissipation. We outline the future prospects of the technique given the exciting prospects for future transit searches, such as those to be carried out by the COROTand Kepler missions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science