Planets transiting non-eclipsing binaries

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The majority of binary stars do not eclipse. Current searches for transiting circumbinary planets concentrate on eclipsing binaries, and are therefore restricted to a small fraction of potential hosts. We investigate the concept of finding planets transiting non-eclipsing binaries, whose geometry would require mutually inclined planes. Using an N-body code we explore how the number and sequence of transits vary as functions of observing time and orbital parameters. The concept is then generalised thanks to a suite of simulated circumbinary systems. Binaries are constructed from radial-velocity surveys of the solar neighbourhood. They are then populated with orbiting gas giants, drawn from a range of distributions. The binary population is shown to be compatible with the Kepler eclipsing binary catalogue, indicating that the properties of binaries may be as universal as the initial mass function. These synthetic systems produce transiting circumbinary planets occurring on both eclipsing and non-eclipsing binaries. Simulated planets transiting eclipsing binaries are compared with published Kepler detections. We find 1) that planets transiting non-eclipsing binaries are probably present in the Kepler data; 2) that observational biases alone cannot account for the observed over-density of circumbinary planets near the stability limit, which implies a physical pile-up; and 3) that the distributions of gas giants orbiting single and binary stars are likely different. Estimating the frequency of circumbinary planets is degenerate with the spread in mutual inclination. Only a minimum occurrence rate can be produced, which we find to be compatible with 9 Searching for inclined circumbinary planets may significantly increase the population of known objects and will test our conclusions. Their presence, or absence, will reveal the true occurrence rate and help develop circumbinary planet formation theories.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberA91
Number of pages19
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • planets and satellites: detection, planets and satellites: formation, binaries: spectroscopic, binaries: eclipsing, binaries: close, planets and satellites: gaseous planets