November 4, 2009

"Comparative Exoplanetology: Observing the Atmospheres of Transiting Exoplanets"

Professor Seth Redfield
Wesleyan University


High signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) and high spectral resolution observations of transiting exoplanets provide an opportunity to measure the properties of exoplanet atmospheres and exospheres through transmission spectroscopy. I will present the results of a large-scale program which led to the first ground-based detection of absorption due to an exoplanetary atmosphere. Significant additional absorption is observed in the cores of the neutral sodium doublet relative to the continuum, when in-transit observations are compared to out-of-transit observations. Several tests were applied to substantiate the detection including control lines and an empirical Monte Carlo analysis. I will discuss the richness of the acquired datasets and give an update on our continued observing program. I hope to include a discussion of future exoplanetary research in the context of other phenomena in our local galactic neighborhood, and motivate the growing need for complimentary stellar and interstellar research, as we explore the subtle (and not so subtle) interrelationships of stars, planets, and their surrounding interstellar medium.


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