UV exoplanet transmission spectral features as probes of metals and rainout

Joshua D. Lothringer, Guangwei Fu, David K. Sing, Travis S. Barman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The low-resolution transmission spectra of ultra-hot Jupiters observed shortward of 0.5 µm indicate strong absorption at short-wavelengths. Previous explanations have included scattering, photochemistry, escaping metals, and disequilibrium chemistry. In this Letter, we show that slopes and features shortward of 0.5 µm can be caused by opacity not commonly considered in atmosphere models of exoplanets but guaranteed to be present if conditions are near chemical equilibrium including Fe I, Fe II, Ti I, Ni I, Ca I, Ca II, and SiO. Even relatively trace species (e.g., Cr I and Mn I) can contribute through strong lines in the UV and blue-optical. Using the PHOENIX atmosphere model, we describe how the short-wavelength transit spectrum varies with equilibrium temperature between 1000 K and 4000 K, as well as the effect that the rainout of condensates has at these wavelengths. We define two spectral indices to quantify the strength of the NUV and blue absorption compared to that in the red-optical, finding that the NUV transit depth will significantly exceed the transit depth from Rayleigh scattering alone for all hot Jupiters down to around 1000 K. In the blue-optical, hot Jupiters warmer than 2000 K will have transit depths larger than that from Rayleigh scattering, but below 2000 K, Rayleigh scattering can dominate, if present. We further show that these spectral indices may be used to trace the effects of rainout. We then compare our simulated transit spectra to existing observations of WASP-12b, WASP-33b, WASP-76b, and WASP-121b.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - May 5 2020


  • Infrared: planetary systems
  • Methods: numerical
  • Planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • Techniques: spectroscopic
  • Ultraviolet: planetary systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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