AbstractsAstronomy & Space Science

Ground-based transmission spectroscopy of three inflated Hot Jupiter exoplanets

by Matthias Mallonn

Institution: Universität Potsdam
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1108529
Full text PDF: https://publishup.uni-potsdam.de/opus4-ubp/frontdoor/index/index/docId/7440


The characterization of exoplanets is a young and rapidly expanding field in astronomy. It includes a method called transmission spectroscopy that searches for planetary spectral fingerprints in the light received from the host star during the event of a transit. This techniques allows for conclusions on the atmospheric composition at the terminator region, the boundary between the day and night side of the planet. Observationally a big challenge, first attempts in the community have been successful in the detection of several absorption features in the optical wavelength range. These are for example a Rayleighscattering slope and absorption by sodium and potassium. However, other objects show a featureless spectrum indicative for a cloud or haze layer of condensates masking the probable atmospheric layers. In this work, we performed transmission spectroscopy by spectrophotometry of three Hot Jupiter exoplanets. When we began the work on this thesis, optical transmission spectra have been available for two exoplanets. Our main goal was to advance the current sample of probed objects to learn by comparative exoplanetology whether certain absorption features are common. We selected the targets HAT-P-12b, HAT-P-19b and HAT-P-32b, for which the detection of atmospheric signatures is feasible with current ground-based instrumentation. In addition, we monitored the host stars of all three objects photometrically to correct for influences of stellar activity if necessary. The obtained measurements of the three objects all favor featureless spectra. A variety of atmospheric compositions can explain the lack of a wavelength dependent absorption. But the broad trend of featureless spectra in planets of a wide range of temperatures, found in this work and in similar studies recently published in the literature, favors an explanation based on the presence of condensates even at very low concentrations in the atmospheres of these close-in gas giants. This result points towards the general conclusion that the capability of transmission spectroscopy to determine the atmospheric composition is limited, at least for measurements at low spectral resolution. In addition, we refined the transit parameters and ephemerides of HAT-P-12b and HATP- 19b. Our monitoring campaigns allowed for the detection of the stellar rotation period of HAT-P-19 and a refined age estimate. For HAT-P-12 and HAT-P-32, we derived upper limits on their potential variability. The calculated upper limits of systematic effects of starspots on the derived transmission spectra were found to be negligible for all three targets. Finally, we discussed the observational challenges in the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, the importance of correlated noise in the measurements and formulated suggestions on how to improve on the robustness of results in future work. Die Charakterisierung von Exoplaneten ist ein junger und sich schnell entwickelnder Zweig der Astronomie. Eine ihrer Methoden ist die Transmissionsspektroskopie, welche…