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Masters Defense

July 18 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

“Hazy With a Chance of Star Spots: Constraining the Atmosphere of the Young Planet, K2-33b”

Speaker: Pa Chia Thao

Studying properties of planets across a wide range of ages will unveil the processes that govern planet’s formation and evolution. Although all-sky surveys have led to the discovery of dozens of young planets, little is known about their atmospheres. Here, we present multi-wavelength transit data for the super Neptune-sized exoplanet, K2-33b – the youngest (~11 Myr) transiting exoplanet to-date. We combined photometric observations of K2-33 covering a total of 33 transits spanning >2 years, taken from K2, MEarth, Hubble, and Spitzer. The transit photometry spanned from the optical to the near-infrared (0.6-4.5µm), enabling us to construct a transmission spectrum of the planet. We find that the optical transit depths are nearly a factor of two deeper than those from the near-infrared. This difference holds across multiple datasets taken over years, ruling out issues of data analysis and unconstrained systematics. Surface inhomogeneities on the young star can reproduce some of the difference, but require spot coverage fractions (>60%) that are ruled out by the observed stellar spectrum. We find a better fit to the transmission spectrum using photochemical hazes, which were predicted to be strong in young, moderate-temperature, and high-radius planets like K2-33b. A tholin haze can reasonably reproduce the data with small or no stellar surface inhomogeneities, consistent with the stellar spectrum. The HST data quality is insufficient for the detection of any molecular features. More observations would be required to fully characterize the hazes and spot properties and confirm the high C/O ratio suggested by current data.


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July 18
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm