Seismology of Giant Planets: General Overview and Results from the Kepler K2 Observations of Neptune
Department of Astronomy, New Mexico State University, P.O. Box 30001, MSC 4500, NM 88003-8001, Las Cruces, USA
2 Apache Point Observatory, 2001 Apache Point Road, P.O. Box 59, NM 88349 Sunspot, USA
3 Physics Department, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 801 Leroy Place, NM 87801, Socorro, USA
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Published online: 27 October 2017
For this invited contribution, I was asked to give an overview about the application of helio and aster-oseismic techniques to study the interior of giant planets, and to specifically present the recent observations of Neptune by Kepler K2. Seismology applied to giant planets could drastically change our understanding of their deep interiors, as it has happened with the Earth, the Sun, and many main-sequence and evolved stars. The study of giant planets' composition is important for understanding both the mechanisms enabling their formation and the origins of planetary systems, in particular our own. Unfortunately, its determination is complicated by the fact that their interior is thought not to be homogeneous, so that spectroscopic determinations of atmospheric abundances are probably not representative of the planet as a whole. Instead, the determination of their composition and structure must rely on indirect measurements and interior models. Giant planets are mostly fluid and convective, which makes their seismology much closer to that of solar-like stars than that of terrestrial planets. Hence, helioseismology techniques naturally transfer to giant planets. In addition, two alternative methods can be used: photometry of the solar light reflected by planetary atmospheres, and ring seismology in the specific case of Saturn. The current decade has been promising thanks to the detection of Jupiter's acoustic oscillations with the ground-based imaging-spectrometer SYMPA and indirect detection of Saturn's f-modes in its rings by the NASA Cassini orbiter. This has motivated new projects of ground-based and space-borne instruments that are under development. The K2 observations represented the first opportunity to search for planetary oscillations with visible photometry. Despite the excellent quality of K2 data, the noise level of the power spectrum of the light curve was not low enough to detect Neptune's oscillations. The main results from the K2 observations are the clear detection of the well-known differential rotation of Neptune, measured for the first time through the rotational modulation of its photometry, and the detection of the Sun's oscillations, for the first time in an indirect way in intensity measurements.
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