A Search for Methane in the Atmosphere of GJ 1214b via GTC Narrow-Band Transmission Spectrophotometry

By Keith Cowing
December 5, 2013
Filed under
A Search for Methane in the Atmosphere of GJ 1214b via GTC Narrow-Band Transmission Spectrophotometry

We present narrow-band photometric measurements of the exoplanet GJ 1214b using the 10.4 m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) and the OSIRIS instrument.

Using tuneable filters we observed a total of five transits, three of which were observed at two wavelengths nearly simultaneously, producing a total of eight individual light curves, six of these probed the possible existence of a methane absorption feature in the 8770 – 8850 {\AA} region at high resolution. We detect no increase in the planet-to-star radius ratio across the methane feature with a change in radius ratio of Δ R = -0.0007 ± 0.0017 corresponding to a scale height (H) change of -0.5 ± 1.2 H across the methane feature, assuming a hydrogen dominated atmosphere. We find a variety of water and cloudy atmospheric models fit the data well, but find that cloud-free models provide poor fits.

These observations support a flat transmission spectrum resulting from the presence of a high-altitude haze or a water-rich atmosphere, in agreement with previous studies. In this study the observations are predominantly limited by the photometric quality and the limited number of data points (resulting from a long observing cadence), which make the determination of the systematic noise challenging. With tuneable filters capable of high resolution measurements (R ~ 600 – 750) of narrow absorption features, the interpretation of our results are also limited by the absence of high resolution methane models below 1 μ m.

P. A. Wilson, K. D. Colón, D. K. Sing, G. E. Ballester, J.-M. Désert, D. Ehrenreich, E. B. Ford, J. J. Fortney, A. Lecavelier des Etangs, M. López-Morales, C. V. Morley, A. R. Pettitt, F. Pont, A. Vidal-Madjar (Submitted on 4 Dec 2013)

Comments: 12 pages, including 14 figures and 1 table; accepted for publication in MNRAS

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1312.1360 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1312.1360v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Paul Anthony Wilson [v1] Wed, 4 Dec 2013 21:18:41 GMT (2521kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻