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TOI-1235 b: A Keystone Super-Earth for Testing Radius Valley Emergence Models around Early M Dwarfs


Small planets on close-in orbits tend to exhibit envelope mass fractions of either effectively zero or up to a few percent depending on their size and orbital period. Models of thermally driven atmospheric mass loss and of terrestrial planet formation in a gas-poor environment make distinct predictions regarding the location of this rocky/nonrocky transition in period-radius space. Here we present the confirmation of TOI-1235 b (P = 3.44 days, rp1.738-0.076+0.087 R⊕), a planet whose size and period are intermediate between the competing model predictions, thus making the system an important test case for emergence models of the rocky/nonrocky transition around early M dwarfs (R s = 0.630± 0.015 ⊕, M s = 0.640 ± 0.016 ⊙. We confirm the TESS planet discovery using reconnaissance spectroscopy, ground-based photometry, high-resolution imaging, and a set of 38 precise radial velocities (RVs) from HARPS-N and HIRES. We measure a planet mass of 6.91-0.85+0.75M⊕ which implies an iron core mass fraction of 20-12+15% in the absence of a gaseous envelope. The bulk composition of TOI-1235 b is therefore consistent with being Earth-like, and we constrain an H/He envelope mass fraction to be <0.5% at 90% confidence. Our results are consistent with model predictions from thermally driven atmospheric mass loss but not with gas-poor formation, suggesting that the former class of processes remains efficient at sculpting close-in planets around early M dwarfs. Our RV analysis also reveals a strong periodicity close to the first harmonic of the photometrically determined stellar rotation period that we treat as stellar activity, despite other lines of evidence favoring a planetary origin ( = P 21.8+0.9-0.8days,mp sin =13.0+ 3.8-5.3M⊕) that cannot be firmly ruled out by our data.

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