Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hunting for Water Vapor in hot Jupiter HD 189733b's Atmosphere

Search for water vapor in the high-resolution transmission spectrum of HD189733b in the visible

Allart et al


Ground-based telescopes equipped with state-of-the-art spectrographs are able to obtain high-resolution transmission and emission spectra of exoplanets that probe the structure and composition of their atmospheres. Various atomic and molecular species, such as Na, CO, H2O have been already detected. Molecular species have been observed only in the near-infrared while atomic species have been observed in the visible. In particular, the detection and abundance determination of water vapor bring important constraints to the planet formation process. We search for water vapor in the atmosphere of the exoplanet HD189733b using a high-resolution transmission spectrum in the visible obtained with HARPS. We use Molecfit to correct for telluric absorption features. Then we compute the high-resolution transmission spectrum of the planet using 3 transit datasets. We finally search for water vapor absorption using a cross-correlation technique that combines the signal of 800 individual lines. Telluric features are corrected to the noise level. We place a 5-sigma upper limit of 100 ppm on the strength of the 6500 A water vapor band. The 1-sigma precision of 20 ppm on the transmission spectrum demonstrates that space-like sensitivity can be achieved from the ground. This approach opens new perspectives to detect various atomic and molecular species with future instruments such as ESPRESSO at the VLT. Extrapolating from our results, we show that only 1 transit with ESPRESSO would be sufficient to detect water vapor on HD189733b-like hot Jupiter with a cloud-free atmosphere. Upcoming near-IR spectrographs will be even more efficient and sensitive to a wider range of molecular species. Moreover, the detection of the same molecular species in different bands (e.g. visible and IR) is key to constrain the structure and composition of the atmosphere, such as the presence of Rayleigh scattering or aerosols.

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