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Diving Into an Atmosphere in Ultraviolet

14 Dec 2020, 17:00 UTC
Diving Into an Atmosphere in Ultraviolet
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What’s going on around the hot-Jupiter exoplanet HAT-P-41b? This planet’s atmosphere is harboring a mystery, recently revealed by observations that span infrared through ultraviolet (UV) light.
Expanding the Spectrum
As a star’s light filters through a planet’s atmosphere on its way to Earth, the atmosphere absorbs certain wavelengths depending on its composition. [European Southern Observatory]At the latest count, we’ve discovered nearly 10,000 confirmed and candidate exoplanets. One way to study these distant worlds is using transmission spectroscopy: we can explore a host star’s spectrum as its planet passes in front of it. The light that filters through the planet’s atmosphere is imprinted with spectral signatures that we can then analyze to learn about the physics and chemistry at work in the planet’s atmosphere.
Ideally, we’d gather spectroscopic observations of planet transits across a broad range of wavelengths, because each region of the electromagnetic spectrum provides an additional constraint for atmospheric models. But so far we’ve probed fewer than 20 exoplanets in the UV, a regime that can reveal critical details of atmospheric physics.
In a new study, a team led by Nikole Lewis (Cornell University) adds one more planet to this collection, the hot Jupiter HAT-P-41b — but what these ...

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