Exoplanet Transit Spectroscopy Using WFC3: WASP-12 b, WASP-17 b, and WASP-19 b


We report analysis of transit spectroscopy of the extrasolar planets WASP-12 b, WASP-17 b, and WASP-19 b using the Wide Field Camera 3 on the HST. We analyze the data for a single transit for each planet using a strategy similar in certain aspects to the techniques used by Berta et al. (2012), but we extend their methodology to allow us to correct for channel- or wavelength-dependent instrumental effects by utilizing the band-integrated time series and measurements of the drift of the spectrum on the detector over time. We achieve almost photon-limited results for individual spectral bins, but the uncertainties in the transit depth for the the band-integrated data are exacerbated by the uneven sampling of the light curve imposed by the orbital phasing of HST’s observations. Our final transit spectra for all three objects are consistent with the presence of a broad absorption feature at 1.4 microns potentially due to water. However, the amplitude of the absorption is less than that expected based on previous observations with Spitzer, possibly due to hazes absorbing in the NIR or non-solar compositions. The degeneracy of models with different compositions and temperature structures combined with the low amplitude of any features in the data preclude our ability to place unambiguous constraints on the atmospheric composition without additional observations with WFC3 to improve the S/N and/or a comprehensive multi-wavelength analysis.

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Date added: Mon, 14 Oct 13