A CHARACTERISTIC TRANSMISSION SPECTRUM DOMINATED by H2O APPLIES to the MAJORITY of HST/WFC3 EXOPLANET OBSERVATIONS

Aishwarya R. Iyer, Mark R. Swain, Robert T. Zellem, Michael R. Line, Gael Roudier, Graca Rocha, John H. Livingston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Currently, 19 transiting exoplanets have published transmission spectra obtained with the Hubble/WFC3 G141 near-IR grism. Using this sample, we have undertaken a uniform analysis incorporating measurement-error debiasing of the spectral modulation due to H2O, measured in terms of the estimated atmospheric scale height, . For those planets with a reported H2O detection (10 out of 19), the spectral modulation due to H2O ranges from 0.9 to 2.9 with a mean value of 1.8 ± 0.5 . This spectral modulation is significantly less than predicted for clear atmospheres. For the group of planets in which H2O has been detected, we find the individual spectra can be coherently averaged to produce a characteristic spectrum in which the shape, together with the spectral modulation of the sample, are consistent with a range of H2O mixing ratios and cloud-top pressures, with a minimum H2O mixing ratio of ppm corresponding to the cloud-free case. Using this lower limit, we show that clouds or aerosols must block at least half of the atmospheric column that would otherwise be sampled by transmission spectroscopy in the case of a cloud-free atmosphere. We conclude that terminator-region clouds with sufficient opacity to be opaque in slant-viewing geometry are common in hot Jupiters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume823
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • methods: data analysis
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: general
  • radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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