An Observational Diagnostic for Distinguishing between Clouds and Haze in Hot Exoplanet Atmospheres
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Dept Planetary Sci
Univ Arizona, Lunar & Planetary Lab
planets and satellites: atmospheres
planets and satellites: individual (WASP-121b)
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherIOP PUBLISHING LTD
CitationAn Observational Diagnostic for Distinguishing between Clouds and Haze in Hot Exoplanet Atmospheres 2017, 845 (2):L20 The Astrophysical Journal
Rights© 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
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AbstractThe nature of aerosols in hot exoplanet atmospheres is one of the primary vexing questions facing the exoplanet field. The complex chemistry, multiple formation pathways, and lack of easily identifiable spectral features associated with aerosols make it especially challenging to constrain their key properties. We propose a transmission spectroscopy technique to identify the primary aerosol formation mechanism for the most highly irradiated hot Jupiters (HIHJs). The technique is based on the expectation that the two key types of aerosols-photochemically generated hazes and equilibrium condensate clouds-are expected to form and persist in different regions of a highly irradiated planet's atmosphere. Haze can only be produced on the permanent daysides of tidally locked hot Jupiters, and will be carried downwind by atmospheric dynamics to the evening terminator (seen as the trailing limb during transit). Clouds can only form in cooler regions on the nightside and morning terminator of HIHJs (seen as the leading limb during transit). Because opposite limbs are expected to be impacted by different types of aerosols, ingress and egress spectra, which primarily probe opposing sides of the planet, will reveal the dominant aerosol formation mechanism. We show that the benchmark HIHJ, WASP-121b, has a transmission spectrum consistent with partial aerosol coverage and that ingress-egress spectroscopy would constrain the location and formation mechanism of those aerosols. In general, using this diagnostic we find that observations with the James Webb Space Telescope and potentially with the Hubble Space Telescope should be able to distinguish between clouds and haze for currently known HIHJs.
VersionFinal published version
SponsorsResearch Corporation for Science Advancement; Grinnell College's Harris Faculty Fellowship; NASA through STScI [GO-13665, GO-14792, 14793]; David and Lucile Packard Foundation; NASA Exoplanet Science Institute