A survey of alkali line absorption in exoplanetary atmospheres

Adam G. Jensen, Seth Redfield, Michael Endl, William D. Cochran, Lars Koesterke, Travis S. Barman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


We obtained over 90hr of spectroscopic observations of four exoplanetary systems with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Observations were taken in transit and out of transit, and we analyzed the differenced spectra - i.e., the transmission spectra - to inspect it for absorption at the wavelengths of the neutral sodium (Na I) doublet at λλ5889, 5895 and neutral potassium (K I) at λ7698. We used the transmission spectrum at Ca I λ6122 - which shows strong stellar absorption but is not an alkali metal resonance line that we expect to show significant absorption in these atmospheres - as a control line to examine our measurements for systematic errors. We use an empirical Monte Carlo method to quantify these systematic errors. In a reanalysis of the same data set using a reduction and analysis pipeline that was derived independently, we confirm the previously seen Na I absorption in HD 189733b at a level of (- 5.26 1.69) × 10-4 (the average value over a 12 integration band to be consistent with previous authors). Additionally, we tentatively confirm the Na I absorption seen in HD 209458b (independently by multiple authors) at a level of (- 2.63 0.81) × 10-4, though the interpretation is less clear. Furthermore, we find Na I absorption of (- 3.16 2.06) × 10-4 at <3σ in HD 149026b; features apparent in the transmission spectrum are consistent with real absorption and indicate this may be a good target for future observations to confirm. No other results (Na I in HD 147506b and Ca I and K I in all four targets) are significant to ≥3σ, although we observe some features that we argue are primarily artifacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number203
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2011


  • atmospheric effects
  • line: profiles
  • planets and satellites: individual (HD 147506b, HD 149026b, HD 189733b, HD 209458b)
  • stars: individual (HD 147506, HD 149026, HD 189733, HD 209458)
  • techniques: spectroscopic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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