An automated search for transiting exocomets
This paper discusses an algorithm for detecting single transits in photometric time-series data. Specifically, we aim to identify asymmetric transits with ingress that is more rapid than egress, as expected for cometary bodies with a significant tail. The algorithm is automated, so can be applied to large samples and only a relatively small number of events need to be manually vetted. We applied this algorithm to all long cadence light curves from the Kepler mission, finding 16 candidate transits with significant asymmetry, 11 of which were found to be artefacts or symmetric transits after manual inspection. Of the 5 remaining events, four are the 0.1% depth events previously identified for KIC 3542116 and 11084727. We identify HD 182952 (KIC 8027456) as a third system showing a potential comet transit. All three stars showing these events have H-R diagram locations consistent with $\sim$100Myr-old open cluster stars, as might be expected given that cometary source regions deplete with age, and giving credence to the comet hypothesis. If these events are part of the same population of events as seen for KIC 8462852, the small increase in detections at 0.1% depth compared to 10% depth suggests that future work should consider whether the distribution is naturally flat, or if comets with symmetric transits in this depth range remain undiscovered. Future searches relying on asymmetry should be more successful if they focus on larger samples and young stars, rather than digging further into the noise.
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/N005805/1)