Spectra as windows into exoplanet atmospheres
Understanding a planet’s atmosphere is a necessary condition for understanding not only the planet itself, but also its formation, structure, evolution, and habitability. This requirement puts a premium on obtaining spectra and developing credible interpretative tools with which to retrieve vital planetary information. However, for exoplanets, these twin goals are far from being realized. In this paper, I provide a personal perspective on exoplanet theory and remote sensing via photometry and low-resolution spectroscopy. Although not a review in any sense, this paper highlights the limitations in our knowledge of compositions, thermal profiles, and the effects of stellar irradiation, focusing on, but not restricted to, transiting giant planets. I suggest that the true function of the recent past of exoplanet atmospheric research has been not to constrain planet properties for all time, but to train a new generation of scientists who, by rapid trial and error, are fast establishing a solid future foundation for a robust science of exoplanets.