Thursday, December 15, 2016

Potassium Detected in Hot Jupiter WASP-17b's Atmosphere

Potassium detection in the clear atmosphere of a hot-Jupiter: WASP-17b transmission spectroscopy


Sedaghasti et al


We present FORS2 (attached to ESO's Very Large Telescope) observations of the exoplanet WASP-17b during its primary transit, for the purpose of differential spectrophotometry analysis. We use the instrument in its Mask eXchange Unit (MXU) mode to simultaneously obtain low resolution spectra of the planet hosting star, as well as several reference stars in the field of view. The integration of these spectra within broadband and smaller 100\AA~bins provides us with 'white' and spectrophotometric light curves, from 5700 to 8000\AA. Through modelling the white light curve, we obtain refined bulk and transit parameters of the planet, as well as wavelength-dependent variations of the planetary radius from smaller spectral bins through which the transmission spectrum is obtained. The inference of transit parameters, as well as the noise statistics, is performed using a Gaussian Process model. We achieve a typical precision in the transit depth of a few hundred parts per million from various transit light curves. From the transmission spectra we rule out a flat spectrum at >3σ and detect marginal presence of the pressure-broadened sodium wings. Furthermore, we detect the wing of the potassium absorption line in the upper atmosphere of the planet with 3σ confidence, both facts pointing to a relatively shallow temperature gradient of the atmosphere. These conclusions are mostly consistent with previous studies of this exo-atmosphere, although previous potassium measurements have been inconclusive.

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