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Clouds in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b

Kreidberg, Laura and Bean, Jacob L. and Désert, Jean-Michel and Benneke, Björn and Deming, Drake and Stevenson, Kevin B. and Seager, Sara and Berta-Thompson, Zachory and Seifahrt, Andreas and Holmeier, Derek (2014) Clouds in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ 1214b. Nature, 505 (7841). pp. 69-72. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/nature12888.

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Recent surveys have revealed that planets intermediate in size between Earth and Neptune (‘super-Earths’) are among the most common planets in the Galaxy. Atmospheric studies are the next step towards developing a comprehensive understanding of this new class of object. Much effort has been focused on using transmission spectroscopy to characterize the atmosphere of the super-Earth archetype GJ 1214b, but previous observations did not have sufficient precision to distinguish between two interpretations for the atmosphere. The planet’s atmosphere could be dominated by relatively heavy molecules, such as water (for example, a 100 per cent water vapour composition), or it could contain high-altitude clouds that obscure its lower layers. Here we report a measurement of the transmission spectrum of GJ 1214b at near-infrared wavelengths that definitively resolves this ambiguity. The data, obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope, are sufficiently precise to detect absorption features from a high mean-molecular-mass atmosphere. The observed spectrum, however, is featureless. We rule out cloud-free atmospheric models with compositions dominated by water, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrogen or carbon dioxide at greater than 5σ confidence. The planet’s atmosphere must contain clouds to be consistent with the data.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access Paper
Kreidberg, Laura0000-0003-0514-1147
Bean, Jacob L.0000-0003-4733-6532
Désert, Jean-Michel0000-0002-0875-8401
Benneke, Björn0000-0001-5578-1498
Deming, Drake0000-0001-5727-4094
Stevenson, Kevin B.0000-0002-7352-7941
Seager, Sara0000-0002-6892-6948
Berta-Thompson, Zachory0000-0002-3321-4924
Additional Information:© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 27 August; accepted 18 November 2013. This work is based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope that were obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract number NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with program GO-13021. Support for this work was provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, the National Science Foundation through a Graduate Research Fellowship (to L.K.), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through a Sloan Research Fellowship (to J.L.B.), NASA through a Sagan Fellowship (to J.-M.D.), and the European Research Council (for D.H. under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme, FP7/2007-2013 Grant Agreement number 247060). Author Contributions: L.K. led the data analysis (with contributions from J.L.B., D.D., K.B.S. and A.S.). J.L.B and J.-M.D. conceived the project and wrote the telescope time proposal (with contributions from B.B., D.D., S.S. and Z.B.-T.). L.K., J.L.B., J.-M.D., D.D. and Z.B.-T. planned the observations. B.B. and S.S. developed and performed the theoretical modelling. D.H. calculated the theoretical stellar limb darkening. J.L.B. led the overall direction of the project. L.K., J.L.B., J.-M.D. and B.B. wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Space Telescope Science InstituteUNSPECIFIED
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationUNSPECIFIED
European Research Council (ERC)247060
NASANAS 5-26555
Issue or Number:7841
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140124-105518007
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:43507
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:27 Jan 2014 23:25
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 16:38

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