Exoplanets & Exomoons

Retrieving Scattering Clouds And Disequilibrium Chemistry In The Atmosphere Of HR 8799e

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
June 17, 2020
Filed under
Retrieving Scattering Clouds And Disequilibrium Chemistry In The Atmosphere Of HR 8799e
HR 8799e

Clouds are ubiquitous in exoplanet atmospheres and represent a challenge for the model interpretation of their spectra. Complex cloud models are too numerically costly for generating a large number of spectra, while more efficient models may be too strongly simplified.

We aim to constrain the atmospheric properties of the directly imaged planet HR 8799e with a free retrieval approach. We use our radiative transfer code petitRADTRANS for generating spectra, which we couple to the PyMultiNest tool. We added the effect of multiple scattering which is important for treating clouds. Two cloud model parameterizations are tested: the first incorporates the mixing and settling of condensates, the second simply parameterizes the functional form of the opacity. In mock retrievals, using an inadequate cloud model may result in atmospheres that are more isothermal and less cloudy than the input. Applying our framework on observations of HR 8799e made with the GPI, SPHERE and GRAVITY, we find a cloudy atmosphere governed by disequilibrium chemistry, confirming previous analyses. We retrieve that C/O=0.60+0.07−0.08. Other models have not yet produced a well constrained C/O value for this planet.

The retrieved C/O values of both cloud models are consistent, while leading to different atmospheric structures: cloudy, or more isothermal and less cloudy. Fitting the observations with the self-consistent Exo-REM model leads to comparable results, while not constraining C/O. With data from the most sensitive instruments, retrieval analyses of directly imaged planets are possible. The inferred C/O ratio of HR 8799e is independent of the cloud model and thus appears to be a robust. This C/O is consistent with stellar, which could indicate that the HR 8799e formed outside the CO2 or CO iceline. As it is the innermost planet of the system, this constraint could apply to all HR 8799 planets.

P. Mollière, T. Stolker, S. Lacour, G. P. P. L. Otten, J. Shangguan, B. Charnay, T. Molyarova, M. Nowak, Th. Henning, G.-D. Marleau, D. A. Semenov, E. van Dishoeck, F. Eisenhauer, P. Garcia, R. Garcia Lopez, A. Z. Greenbaum, S. Hinkley, P. Kervella, L. Kreidberg, A.-L. Maire, E. Nasedkin, L. Pueyo, I. A. G. Snellen, A. Vigan, J. Wang, P. T. de Zeeuw, A. Zurlo

Comments: Accepted for publication in A&A, 28 pages, 13 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2006.09394 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2006.09394v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Paul Mollière
[v1] Tue, 16 Jun 2020 18:00:02 UTC (12,817 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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) 🖖🏻