Exoplanets & Exomoons

Windows Into Other Worlds: Pitfalls in the Physical Interpretation of Exoplanet Atmospheric Spectroscopy

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
astro-ph.EP
June 19, 2024
Filed under , , , , ,
Windows Into Other Worlds: Pitfalls in the Physical Interpretation of Exoplanet Atmospheric Spectroscopy
Schematic diagram showing three possible scenarios for a cloudy atmosphere. Case (a) corresponds to a fully cloudy atmosphere in which observations and reality agree. Case (b) corresponds to an atmosphere with clouds at the radiative-convective boundary only, leading observations to suggest a cloudless atmosphere, which is incorrect. Case (c) corresponds to a completely cloudless atmosphere where observations and reality agree. The eye symbolizes the observable region of the atmosphere. — astro-ph.EP

Atmospheric spectroscopy provides a window into the properties of exoplanets. However, the physical interpretation of retrieved data and its implications for the internal properties of exoplanets remains nebulous.

This letter addresses three misconceptions held by some atmospheric spectroscopists regarding the connection between observed chemical abundances and theory: (1) Whether atmospheric spectroscopy can provide the bulk atmospheric chemistry, (2) whether it can identify if a planet is cloudless, and (3) whether atmospheric evaporation arguments can be used to dismiss certain compositions inferred through spectroscopy.

This letter concludes by exploring applications of remote sensing in the quest for the search for life outside of our solar system.

Darius Modirrousta-Galian, Riccardo Spinelli, Antonio Jimenez-Escobar

Comments: Accepted for publication: MemSAIt
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:2406.12765 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2406.12765v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2406.12765
Focus to learn more
Submission history
From: Darius Modirrousta-Galian
[v1] Tue, 18 Jun 2024 16:31:40 UTC (1,234 KB)
https://arxiv.org/abs/2406.12765
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) 🖖🏻