Water, High-altitude Condensates, and Possible Methane Depletion in the Atmosphere of the Warm Super-Neptune WASP-107b

Laura Kreidberg, Michael Line, Daniel Thorngren, Caroline V. Morley, Kevin B. Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

The super-Neptune exoplanet WASP-107b is an exciting target for atmosphere characterization. It has an unusually large atmospheric scale height and a small, bright host star, raising the possibility of precise constraints on its current nature and formation history. We report the first atmospheric study of WASP-107b, a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) measurement of its near-infrared transmission spectrum. We determined the planet's composition with two techniques: atmospheric retrieval based on the transmission spectrum and interior structure modeling based on the observed mass and radius. The interior structure models set a 3σ upper limit on the atmospheric metallicity of 30× solar. The transmission spectrum shows strong evidence for water absorption (6.5σ confidence), and the retrieved water abundance is consistent with expectations for a solar abundance pattern. The inferred carbon-to-oxygen ratio is subsolar at 2.7σ confidence, which we attribute to possible methane depletion in the atmosphere. The spectral features are smaller than predicted for a cloud-free composition, crossing less than one scale height. A thick condensate layer at high altitudes (0.1-3 mbar) is needed to match the observations. We find that physically motivated cloud models with moderate sedimentation efficiency (f sed = 0.3) or hazes with a particle size of 0.3 μm reproduce the observed spectral feature amplitude. Taken together, these findings serve as an illustration of the diversity and complexity of exoplanet atmospheres. The community can look forward to more such results with the high precision and wide spectral coverage afforded by future observing facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL6
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume858
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2018

Keywords

  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: composition
  • planets and satellites: individual (WASP-107b)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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