Exoplanet transits enable high-resolution spectroscopy across spatially resolved stellar surfaces
Dravins et al
Observations of stellar surfaces - except for the Sun - are hampered by their tiny angular extent, while observed spectral lines are smeared by averaging over the stellar surface, and by stellar rotation. Exoplanet transits can be used to analyze stellar atmospheric structure, yielding high-resolution spectra across spatially highly resolved stellar surfaces, free from effects of spatial smearing and the rotational wavelength broadening present in full-disk spectra. During a transit, stellar surface portions successively become hidden, and differential spectroscopy between various transit phases provides spectra of those surface segments then hidden behind the planet. The small area subtended by even a large planet (about 1% of a main-sequence star) offers high spatial resolution but demands very precise observations. We demonstrate the reconstruction of photospheric FeI line profiles at a spectral resolution R=80,000 across the surface of the solar-type star HD209458. Any detailed understanding of stellar atmospheres requires modeling with 3-dimensional hydrodynamics. The properties predicted by such models are mapped onto the precise spectral-line shapes, asymmetries and wavelength shifts, and their variation from the center to the limb across any stellar disk. This method provides a tool for testing and verifying such models. The method will soon become applicable to more diverse types of stars, thanks to new spectrometers on very large telescopes, and since ongoing photometric searches are expected to discover additional bright host stars of transiting exoplanets.