Biosignatures & Paleobiology

KELT-11 b: Abundances Of Water And Constraints On Carbon-bearing Molecules From The Hubble Transmission Spectrum

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 6, 2020
Filed under
KELT-11 b: Abundances Of Water And Constraints On Carbon-bearing Molecules From The Hubble Transmission Spectrum
Comparison of the best-fit spectra from the different retrievals on the KELT-11 b reduced HST data (orange). The feature seen after 1.5µm is better reproduced by models including carbon species but all the models provide a decent fit to this spectrum

In the past decade, the analysis of exoplanet atmospheric spectra has revealed the presence of water vapour in almost all the planets observed, with the exception of a fraction of overcast planets.

Indeed, water vapour presents a large absorption signature in the wavelength coverage of the Hubble Space Telescope’s (HST) Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), which is the main space-based observatory for atmospheric studies of exoplanets, making its detection very robust. However, while carbon-bearing species such as methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are also predicted from current chemical models, their direct detection and abundance characterisation has remained a challenge. Here we analyse the transmission spectrum of the puffy, clear hot-Jupiter KELT-11 b from the HST WFC3 camera.

We find that the spectrum is consistent with the presence of water vapor and an additional absorption at longer wavelengths than 1.5um, which could well be explained by a mix of carbon bearing molecules. CO2, when included is systematically detected. One of the main difficulties to constrain the abundance of those molecules is their weak signatures across the HST WFC3 wavelength coverage, particularly when compared to those of water.

Through a comprehensive retrieval analysis, we attempt to explain the main degeneracies present in this dataset and explore some of the recurrent challenges that are occurring in retrieval studies (e.g: the impact of model selection, the use of free vs self-consistent chemistry and the combination of instrument observations). Our results make this planet an exceptional example of chemical laboratory where to test current physical and chemical models of hot-Jupiters’ atmospheres.

Quentin Changeat, Billy Edwards, Ahmed F. Al-Refaie, Mario Morvan, Angelos Tsiaras, Ingo P. Waldmann, Giovanna Tinetti
Comments: 24 pages, 14 figures, Accepted in AJ
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2010.01310 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2010.01310v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Quentin Changeat
[v1] Sat, 3 Oct 2020 09:29:22 UTC (15,961 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) 🖖🏻