Direct detection and atmospheric characterisation of HD 179949 b

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Direct detection and atmospheric characterisation of HD 179949 b

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 15th April 2014, 8:29 pm

Carbon monoxide and water vapor in the atmosphere of the non-transiting exoplanet HD 179949 b

(Abridged) In recent years, ground-based high-resolution spectroscopy has become a powerful tool for investigating exoplanet atmospheres. It allows the robust identification of molecular species, and it can be applied to both transiting and non-transiting planets. Radial-velocity measurements of the star HD 179949 indicate the presence of a giant planet companion in a close-in orbit. Here we present the analysis of spectra of the system at 2.3 micron, obtained at a resolution of R~100,000, during three nights of observations with CRIRES at the VLT. We targeted the system while the exoplanet was near superior conjunction, aiming to detect the planet's thermal spectrum and the radial component of its orbital velocity. We detect molecular absorption from carbon monoxide and water vapor with a combined S/N of 6.3, at a projected planet orbital velocity of K_P = (142.8 +- 3.4) km/s, which translates into a planet mass of M_P = (0.98 +- 0.04) Jupiter masses, and an orbital inclination of i = (67.7 +- 4.3) degrees, using the known stellar radial velocity and stellar mass. The detection of absorption features rather than emission means that, despite being highly irradiated, HD 179949 b does not have an atmospheric temperature inversion in the probed range of pressures and temperatures. Since the host star is active (R_HK > -4.9), this is in line with the hypothesis that stellar activity damps the onset of thermal inversion layers owing to UV flux photo-dissociating high-altitude, optical absorbers. Finally, our analysis favors an oxygen-rich atmosphere for HD 179949 b, although a carbon-rich planet cannot be statistically ruled out based on these data alone.

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