Recent results from the Kepler mission indicate that super-Earths (planets with masses between 1-10 times that of the Earth) are the most common kind of planet around nearby Sun-like stars.
These planets have no direct solar system analogue, and are currently one of the least well-understood classes of extrasolar planets. Many super-Earths have average densities that are consistent with a broad range of bulk compositions, including both water-dominated worlds and rocky planets covered by a thick hydrogen and helium atmosphere. Measurements of the transmission spectra of these planets offer the opportunity to resolve this degeneracy by directly constraining the scale heights and corresponding mean molecular weights of their atmospheres.
We present Hubble Space Telescope near-infrared spectroscopy of two transits of the newly discovered transiting super-Earth HD 97658b. We use the Wide Field Camera 3's scanning mode to measure the wavelength-dependent transit depth in thirty individual bandpasses. Our averaged differential transmission spectrum has a median 1 sigma uncertainty of 19 ppm in individual bins, making this the most precise observation of an exoplanetary transmission spectrum obtained with WFC3 to date.
Our data are inconsistent with a cloud-free solar metallicity atmosphere at the 17 sigma level. They are a good match for flat models corresponding to either a metal-rich atmosphere or a solar metallicity atmosphere with a cloud or haze layer located at pressures of a mbar or higher.
Heather A. Knutson, Diana Dragomir, Laura Kreidberg, Eliza M.-R. Kempton, P. R. McCullough, Jonathan J. Fortney, Jacob L. Bean, Michael Gillon, Derek Homeier, Andrew W. Howard (Submitted on 18 Mar 2014)
Comments: 9 pages, 8 figures, 4 tables. Submitted to ApJ
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1403.4602 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1403.4602v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version) Submission history
From: Heather Knutson [v1] Tue, 18 Mar 2014 20:00:20 GMT (370kb)
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