Distinguishing between stellar and planetary companions with phase monitoring


E-mail: skane@ipac.caltech.edu


Exoplanets which are detected using the radial velocity technique have a well-known ambiguity of their true mass, caused by the unknown inclination of the planetary orbit with respect to the plane of the sky. Constraints on the inclination are aided by astrometric follow-up in rare cases or, in ideal situations, through subsequent detection of a planetary transit. As the predicted inclination decreases, the mass of the companion increases leading to a change in the predicted properties. Here we investigate the changes in the mass, radius and atmospheric properties as the inclination pushes the companion from the planetary into the brown dwarf and finally low-mass star regimes. We determine the resulting detectable photometric signatures in the predicted phase variation as the companion changes properties and becomes self-luminous. We apply this to the HD 114762 and HD 162020 systems for which the minimum masses of the known companions place them at the deuterium-burning limit.