Structure and evolution of the first CoRoT exoplanets: Probing the brown dwarf/planet overlapping mass regime

J. Leconte, I. Baraffe, G. Chabrier, T. Barman, B. Levrard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We present detailed structure and evolution calculations for the first transiting extrasolar planets discovered by the space-based CoRoT mission. Comparisons between theoretical and observed radii provide information on the internal composition of the CoRoT objects. We distinguish three different categories of planets emerging from these discoveries and from previous ground-based surveys: (i) planets explained by standard planetary models including irradiation; (ii) abnormally bloated planets; and (iii) massive objects belonging to the overlapping mass regime between planets and brown dwarfs. For the second category, we show that tidal heating can explain the relevant CoRoT objects, providing non-zero eccentricities. We stress that the usual assumption of a quick circularization of the orbit by tides, as usually done in transit light curve analysis, is not justified a priori, as suggested recently by Levrard et al. (2009), and that eccentricity analysis should be carefully redone for some observations. Finally, special attention is devoted to CoRoT-3b and to the identification of its very nature: giant planet or brown dwarf? The radius determination of this object confirms the theoretical mass-radius predictions for gaseous bodies in the substellar regime but, given the present observational uncertainties, does not allow an unambiguous identification of its very nature. This opens the avenue, however, to an observational identification of these two distinct astrophysical populations, brown dwarfs and giant planets, in their overlapping mass range, as done for the case of the 8 Jupiter-mass object Hat-P-2b. According to the presently published error bars for the radius determination and to our present theoretical description of planet structure and evolution, the high mean density of this object requires a substantial metal enrichment of the interior and is inconsistent at about the 2-sigma limit with the expected radius of a solar-metallicity brown dwarf. Within the aforementioned observational and theoretical determinations, this allows a clear identification of its planetary nature, suggesting that planets may form up to at least 8 Jupiter masses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-389
Number of pages5
JournalAstronomy and astrophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs
  • Stars: planetary systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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