Clouds in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b [484 citations by 20190709]

Research, Innovation, Inspiration, Human Health Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science Clouds in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b [484 citations by 20190709]

  • Lin Qiu
    Keymaster
    July 9, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    Authors & Journal

    Nature volume505pages69–72 (02 January 2014)

    “Recent surveys have revealed that planets intermediate in size between Earth and Neptune (‘super-Earths’) are among the most common planets in the Galaxy1,2,3. Atmospheric studies are the next step towards developing a comprehensive understanding of this new class of object4,5,6. Much effort has been focused on using transmission spectroscopy to characterize the atmosphere of the super-Earth archetype GJ 1214b (refs 7891011121314151617), but previous observations did not have sufficient precision to distinguish between two interpretations for the atmosphere. The planet’s atmosphere could be dominated by relatively heavy molecules, such as water (for example, a 100 per cent water vapour composition), or it could contain high-altitude clouds that obscure its lower layers. Here we report a measurement of the transmission spectrum of GJ 1214b at near-infrared wavelengths that definitively resolves this ambiguity. The data, obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope, are sufficiently precise to detect absorption features from a high mean-molecular-mass atmosphere. The observed spectrum, however, is featureless. We rule out cloud-free atmospheric models with compositions dominated by water, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrogen or carbon dioxide at greater than 5σconfidence. The planet’s atmosphere must contain clouds to be consistent with the data.”

    Original Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature12888