Tag Archives: transit depth

The atmosphere of exoplanet WASP-36b

WASP-36b transits

Transits of WASP-36b in multiple colours and from different nights.

A new paper by Luigi Mancini et al reports transits of the hot-Jupiter exoplanet WASP-36b in multiple colours. The point is to record the transit depth as a function of wavelength, and thus deduce how opaque the planet’s atmosphere is at different wavelengths. That, in turn, might tell us what the atmosphere is made of.

To do this Mancini et al have used the GROND instrument on ESO’s 2.2-m telescope, which records light in four different colours simultaneously. They observed four different transits of WASP-36b over 2012 to 2015.

The result is the figure below showing the transit depth in the four different passbands (greater depth implying a larger planet radius, plotted as the ratio of planet to star, Rb/RA).

The black crosses show the transit depth. The dashed versions are corrected for possible star-spots in the transit light curves. The coloured lines represent different atmospheric models.

WASP-36b transits versus passband

The data show a clear and strong trend to greater depth in the blue, steeper than would be explained by any of the models shown. This means that something in the planet’s atmosphere is absorbing strongly at bluer wavelengths. What is causing this is unclear, and will require further investigation.

WASP exoplanet skies in Forbes Magazine

A recent article by Brian Koberlein in Forbes Magazine, on “The Wonder of Exoplanet Skies”, features WASP. The article is based on a recent paper by Jake Turner et al which includes observations of 15 hot Jupiters, of which seven are WASP planets.

The paper is one of the first to compile exoplanet transits in the near-UV “U” band. By comparing transit depths at different wavelengths one can discern facts about the exoplanet’s sky, such as whether is it clear or cloudy.

The most interesting result is apparently anomalous U-band transit depths in WASP-1b and WASP-36b, which appear shallower than in the optical, a finding that is hard to explain. Most likely this will have been caused by some observational bias, especially since there appears to be “red noise” in some of the transit profiles.

The image shows transits in the red (Harris R) and the near-UV (Bessell U), along with the residuals against a fitted model.

WASP-36b U-band transit

This sort of work is hard to do from the ground, but such studies point to a bright future for parameterising exoplanet atmospheres.