The recent announcement that sodium absorption has been observed in the atmosphere of HD 209458b, the only extrasolar giant planet (EGP) observed to transit its parent star, is the first direct detection of an EGP atmosphere. We explore the possibility that neutral sodium is not in local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) in the outer atmosphere of irradiated EGPs and that the sodium concentration may be underestimated by models that make the LTE assumption. Our results indicate that it may not be necessary to invoke excessive photoionization, low metallicity, or even high-altitude clouds to explain the observations.
- Planetary systems — radiative transfer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science