The Transit Light Source Effect. II. the Impact of Stellar Heterogeneity on Transmission Spectra of Planets Orbiting Broadly Sun-like Stars

Benjamin V. Rackham, Daniel Apai, Mark S. Giampapa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Transmission spectra probe exoplanetary atmospheres, but they can also be strongly affected by heterogeneities in host star photospheres through the transit light source effect. Here we build upon our recent study of the effects of unocculted spots and faculae on M-dwarf transmission spectra, extending the analysis to FGK dwarfs. Using a suite of rotating model photospheres, we explore spot and facula covering fractions for varying activity levels and the associated stellar contamination spectra. Relative to M dwarfs, we find that the typical variabilities of FGK dwarfs imply lower spot covering fractions, though they generally increase with later spectral types, from ∼0.1% for F dwarfs to 2%-4% for late-K dwarfs. While the stellar contamination spectra are considerably weaker than those for typical M dwarfs, we find that typically active G and K dwarfs produce visual slopes that are detectable in high-precision transmission spectra. We examine line offsets at Hα and the Na and K doublets and find that unocculted faculae in K dwarfs can appreciably alter transit depths around the Na D doublet. We find that band-averaged transit depth offsets at molecular bands for CH 4 , CO, CO 2 , H 2 O, N 2 O, O 2 , and O 3 are not detectable for typically active FGK dwarfs, though stellar TiO/VO features are potentially detectable for typically active late-K dwarfs. Generally, this analysis shows that inactive FGK dwarfs do not produce detectable stellar contamination features in transmission spectra, though active FGK host stars can produce such features, and care is warranted in interpreting transmission spectra from these systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • methods: numerical
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: fundamental parameters
  • stars: activity
  • starspots
  • techniques: spectroscopic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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