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2022ApJ...941L...5E - Astrophys. J., 941, L5 (2022/December-2)

A Temperature Trend for Clouds and Hazes in Exoplanet Atmospheres.


Abstract (from CDS):

The transmission spectra of exoplanet atmospheres observed with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in the near-infrared range (1.1-1.65 μm) frequently show evidence for some combination of clouds and hazes. Identification of systematic trends in exoplanet clouds and hazes is potentially important for understanding atmospheric composition and temperature structure. Here we report on the analysis of spectral modulation using a large, uniformly processed sample of HST/WFC3 transit spectra from 62 exoplanets. The spectral retrieval includes the capability to detect and represent atmospheres in which the composition departs from thermochemical equilibrium. By using this unique catalog and measuring the dampening of spectral modulations compared to strictly clear atmospheres, we identify two populations. One is completely cloud/haze free spanning a wide temperature range, while the other population, identified as “partial cloud/hazes,” follows a trend from mostly cloudy/hazy around 500 K to mostly clear at ∼1500 K. We also find that a partially transparent aerosol component is frequently present and that it is typically vertically distributed throughout the atmospheric column. Our findings also suggest that while clouds and hazes are common in exoplanet atmospheres, the majority of planets have some level of detectable spectral modulation. Additionally, the empirical trend that clouds and hazes are minimized at 1460.86 K${}_{-405}^{+316}$ revealed in our catalog has predictive utility for modeling the performance of large-scale transiting exoplanets survey, such as planned with the Ariel mission. This trend can also be used for making a probability-based forecast of spectral modulation for a given source in the context of future JWST observations. Future observations including the optical and/or a broader spectral coverage may be useful to further quantify the trend reported here.

Abstract Copyright: © 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

Journal keyword(s): Exoplanet atmospheric composition - Exoplanet atmospheres - Hubble Space Telescope

Simbad objects: 55

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