Astronomy Seminar--High-Resolution Transmission Spectroscopy of Exoplanetary Atmospheres

3:00 PM  - 4:00 PM
Thursday Feb 7, 2013
Room 150, Olin-Rice Science Center

Dr. Adam Jensen, Astronomy Department, Wesleyan University.

Observations over the last two decades have revolutionized our understanding of planetary systems in the Milky Way.  There are now hundreds of known, confirmed exoplanets and thousands of additional candidates likely to be exoplanets, statistically implying perhaps billions of planets in our galaxy alone.  As the detection of exoplanets continues to progress, characterizing these planets and their atmospheres becomes extremely important.  An exoplanetary atmosphere was not detected until 2002 (Charbonneau et al. 2002), and in 2013 we remain at only tens of unambiguous detections.  I will provide a brief overview of exoplanetary detection methods, highlighting transits in particular.  Within that context, I will discuss using transmission spectroscopy to study exoplanetary atmospheres and highlight our program at Wesleyan University, which uses high-resolution (R~60k) spectroscopy from the 9.2m Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas.  Our work has led to the first ground-based detection of an exoplanetary atmosphere (Na I by Redfield et al. 2008) and the first detection of exoplanetary H-alpha (Jensen et al. 2012).  I will review the challenges inherent to our ground-based observing methods, and discuss the interpretation of our results with respect to atmospheric temperature inversions and the potential processes for creating and sustaining n=2 hydrogen that result in H-alpha absorption.  I will also outline the present and future of our program, including new targets for the HET and upcoming observations with the 10m Keck I and 3.5m WIYN Telescopes.

This event is for: Students, Staff and Faculty

Sponsored By: Physics & Astronomy

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