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Exploring Extreme Exoplanets with the CUTE SmallSat Mission

Presentation #624.02 in the session Planetary Atmospheres - Hot Jupiters.

Published onApr 03, 2024
Exploring Extreme Exoplanets with the CUTE SmallSat Mission

Atmospheric escape is a process that affects the structure, composition, and evolution of many planets. Owing to high levels of ultraviolet irradiance from their nearby parent stars, the signatures of rapid atmospheric escape are detectable on close-in, gaseous exoplanets transiting bright stars. The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) is a 6U CubeSat mission designed to take advantage of the near-ultraviolet (250 – 330 nm) stellar brightness distribution to conduct novel observations of the extended atmospheres of nearby close-in planets. CUTE is NASA’s first dedicated exoplanet spectroscopy mission and trained over 20 students through its implementation, science, and operations phases. CUTE was launched in September 2021 and has conducted an 18-month primary science mission, collecting 6 – 11 transits of spectroscopic observations on each of six ultra-hot Jupiters. I will present an overview of the CUTE mission, including its motivation and development path, and conclude by presenting on-orbit science data and observations of excess NUV absorption on ultra-hot Jupiters.

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