Securing the Legacy of TESS through the Care and Maintenance of TESS Planet Ephemerides

Diana Dragomir, Mallory Harris, Joshua Pepper, Thomas Barclay, Steven Villanueva, George R. Ricker, Roland Vanderspek, David W. Latham, S. Seager, Joshua N. Winn, Jon M. Jenkins, David R. Ciardi, Gabor Furesz, Christopher E. Henze, Ismael Mireles, Edward H. Morgan, Elisa V. Quintana, Eric B. Ting, Daniel Yahalomi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Much of the science from the exoplanets detected by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission relies on precisely predicted transit times that are needed for many follow-up characterization studies. We investigate ephemeris deterioration for simulated TESS planets and find that the ephemerides of 81% of those will have expired (i.e., 1σ mid-transit time uncertainties greater than 30 minutes) 1 yr after their TESS observations. We verify these results using a sample of TESS planet candidates as well. In particular, of the simulated planets that would be recommended as James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) targets by Kempton et al., ∼80% will have mid-transit time uncertainties >30 minutes by the earliest time JWST would observe them. This rapid deterioration is driven primarily by the relatively short time baseline of TESS observations. We describe strategies for maintaining TESS ephemerides fresh through follow-up transit observations. We find that the longer the baseline between the TESS and the follow-up observations, the longer the ephemerides stay fresh, and that 51% of simulated primary mission TESS planets will require space-based observations. The recently approved extension to the TESS mission will rescue the ephemerides of most (though not all) primary mission planets, but the benefits of these new observations can only be reaped 2 yr after the primary mission observations. Moreover, the ephemerides of most primary mission TESS planets (as well as those newly discovered during the extended mission) will again have expired by the time future facilities such as the ELTs, Ariel, and the possible LUVOIR/Origins Space Telescope missions come online, unless maintenance follow-up observations are obtained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number219
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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