The Kepler mission has recently announced the discovery of Kepler-10b, the smallest exoplanet discovered to date and the first rocky planet found by the spacecraft. A second, 45 day period transit-like signal present in the photometry from the first eight months of data could not be confirmed as being caused by a planet at the time of that announcement. Here we apply the light curve modeling technique known as BLENDER to explore the possibility that the signal might be due to an astrophysical false positive (blend). To aid in this analysis we report the observation of two transits with the Spitzer Space Telescope at 4.5μm. When combined, they yield a transit depth of 344 ± 85ppm that is consistent with the depth in the Kepler passband (376 ± 9ppm, ignoring limb darkening), which rules out blends with an eclipsing binary of a significantly different color than the target. Using these observations along with other constraints from high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy, we are able to exclude the vast majority of possible false positives. We assess the likelihood of the remaining blends, and arrive conservatively at a false alarm rate of 1.6 × 10-5 that is small enough to validate the candidate as a planet (designated Kepler-10c) with a very high level of confidence. The radius of this object is measured to be Rp = 2.227+0.052 -0.057 R ⊕ (in which the error includes the uncertainty in the stellar properties), but currently available radial-velocity measurements only place an upper limit on its mass of about 20 M ⊕. Kepler-10c represents another example (with Kepler-9d and Kepler-11g) of statistical "validation" of a transiting exoplanet, as opposed to the usual "confirmation" that can take place when the Doppler signal is detected or transit timing variations are measured. It is anticipated that many of Kepler's smaller candidates will receive a similar treatment since dynamical confirmation may be difficult or impractical with the sensitivity of current instrumentation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science