No Conclusive Evidence for Transits of Proxima b in MOST Photometry

David M. Kipping, Chris Cameron, Joel D. Hartman, James R.A. Davenport, Jaymie M. Matthews, Dimitar Sasselov, Jason Rowe, Robert J. Siverd, Jingjing Chen, Emily Sandford, Gáspár Bakos, Andrés Jordán, Daniel Bayliss, Thomas Henning, Luigi Mancini, Kaloyan Penev, Zoltan Csubry, Waqas Bhatti, Joao Da Silva Bento, David B. GuentherRainer Kuschnig, Anthony F.J. Moffat, Slavek M. Rucinski, Werner W. Weiss

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    34 Citations (Scopus)


    The analysis of Proxima Centauri's radial velocities recently led Anglada-Escudé et al. to claim the presence of a low-mass planet orbiting the Sun's nearest star once every 11.2 days. Although the a priori probability that Proxima b transits its parent star is just 1.5%, the potential impact of such a discovery would be considerable. Independent of recent radial velocity efforts, we observed Proxima Centauri for 12.5 days in 2014 and 31 days in 2015 with the Microwave and Oscillations of Stars space telescope. We report here that we cannot make a compelling case that Proxima b transits in our precise photometric time series. Imposing an informative prior on the period and phase, we do detect a candidate signal with the expected depth. However, perturbing the phase prior across 100 evenly spaced intervals reveals one strong false positive and one weaker instance. We estimate a false-positive rate of at least a few percent and a much higher false-negative rate of 20%-40%, likely caused by the very high flare rate of Proxima Centauri. Comparing our candidate signal to HATSouth ground-based photometry reveals that the signal is somewhat, but not conclusively, disfavored (1σ-2σ), leading us to argue that the signal is most likely spurious. We expect that infrared photometric follow-up could more conclusively test the existence of this candidate signal, owing to the suppression of flare activity and the impressive infrared brightness of the parent star.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number93
    JournalAstronomical Journal
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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