Unveiling the atmospheres of giant exoplanets with an EChO-class mission

Vivien Parmentier, Adam Showman, Julien de Wit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

More than a thousand exoplanets have been discovered over the last decade. Perhaps more excitingly, probing their atmospheres has become possible. With current data we have glimpsed the diversity of exoplanet atmospheres that will be revealed over the coming decade. However, numerous questions concerning their chemical composition, thermal structure, and atmospheric dynamics remain to be answered. More observations of higher quality are needed. In the next years, the selection of a space-based mission dedicated to the spectroscopic characterization of exoplanets would revolutionize our understanding of the physics of planetary atmospheres. Such a mission was proposed to the ESA cosmic vision program in 2014. Our paper is therefore based on the planned capabilities of the Exoplanet Characterization Observatory (EChO), but it should equally apply to any future mission with similar characteristics. With its large spectral coverage (0.4 − 16 μm), high spectral resolution (λ/Δλ > 300 below 5 μm and λ/Δλ > 30 above 5 μm) and 1.5m mirror, a future mission such as EChO will provide spectrally resolved transit lightcurves, secondary eclipses lightcurves, and full phase curves of numerous exoplanets with an unprecedented signal-to-noise ratio. In this paper, we review some of today’s main scientific questions about gas giant exoplanets atmospheres, for which a future mission such as EChO will bring a decisive contribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-500
Number of pages20
JournalExperimental Astronomy
Volume40
Issue number2-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Keywords

  • Atmosphere
  • EChO
  • Exoplanet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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