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HST/WFC3 transmission spectroscopy of the cold rocky planet TRAPPIST-1h

Presentation #102.50 in the session Poster Session.

Published onJun 20, 2022
HST/WFC3 transmission spectroscopy of the cold rocky planet TRAPPIST-1h

TRAPPIST-1 is a nearby ultra-cool dwarf star transited by seven rocky planets. We observed three transits of its outermost planet, TRAPPIST-1h, using the G141 grism of the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument aboard the Hubble Space Telescope to place constraints on it’s potentially cold atmosphere. In order to deal with the effect of stellar contamination, we model TRAPPIST-1 active regions as portions of a cooler and a hotter photosphere, and generate multi-temperature models that we compare to the star’s out of transit spectrum. Using the inferred spots parameters, we produce corrected transmission spectra for planet h under five transit configurations and compare these data to planetary atmospheric transmission models using the forward model CHIMERA. Our analysis revealed that TRAPPIST-1h is unlikely to host an aerosol-free H/He dominated atmosphere. While the current data precision limits the constraints we can put on the planetary atmosphere, we find that the likeliest scenario is that of a flat, featureless transmission spectrum in the WFC3/G141 bandpass due to a high mean molecular weight atmosphere (>1000x solar), no atmosphere, or an opaque aerosol layer, all in absence of stellar contamination. This work outlines the limitations of modeling active photospheric regions with theoretical stellar spectra, and those brought by our lack of knowledge of the photospheric structure of ultracool dwarf stars. For further characterization of TRAPPIST-1h’s planetary atmosphere, higher precision measurements over wider wavelengths, as will be possible with JWST, are necessary.

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