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Spitzer Transits of the Super-Earth GJ1214b and Implications for Its Atmosphere

By Jonathan D. Fraine, Drake Deming, Michaël Gillon, Emmanuel Jehin, Brice-Olivier Demory, Bjoern Benneke, Sara Seager, Nikole K. Lewis, Heather Knutson and Jean-Michel Desert


We observed the transiting super-Earth exoplanet GJ1214b using Warm Spitzer at 4.5 microns wavelength during a 20-day quasi-continuous sequence in May 2011. The goals of our long observation were to accurately define the infrared transit radius of this nearby super-Earth, to search for the secondary eclipse, and to search for other transiting planets in the habitable zone of GJ1214. We here report results from the transit monitoring of GJ1214b, including a re-analysis of previous transit observations by Desert et al. (2011). In total, we analyse 14 transits of GJ1214b at 4.5 microns, 3 transits at 3.6 microns, and 7 new ground-based transits in the I+z band. Our new Spitzer data by themselves eliminate cloudless solar composition atmospheres for GJ1214b, and methane-rich models from Howe & Burrows (2012). Using our new Spitzer measurements to anchor the observed transit radii of GJ1214b at long wavelengths, and adding new measurements in I+z, we evaluate models from Benneke & Seager (2012) and Howe & Burrows (2012) using a chi-squared analysis. We find that the best-fit model exhibits an increase in transit radius at short wavelengths due to Rayleigh scattering. Pure water atmospheres are also possible. However, a flat line (no atmosphere detected) remains among the best of the statistically acceptable models, and better than pure water atmospheres. We explore the effect of systematic differences among results from different observational groups, and we find that the Howe & Burrows (2012) tholin-haze model remains the best fit, even when systematic differences among observers are considered.Peer reviewe

Topics: Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, Physical, chemical, mathematical & earth Sciences :: Space science, astronomy & astrophysics, Physique, chimie, mathématiques & sciences de la terre :: Aérospatiale, astronomie & astrophysique
Year: 2013
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