UV Exoplanet Transmission Spectral Features as Probes of Metals and Rainout

Joshua D. Lothringer, Guangwei Fu, David K. Sing, Travis S. Barman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The transmission spectra of ultra-hot Jupiters observed shortward of 0.5 μm indicate strong absorption. Previous explanations have included scattering, photochemistry, escaping metals, and disequilibrium chemistry. In this Letter, we show that slopes and features shortward of 0.5 μm can be caused by opacity not commonly considered in atmosphere models of exoplanets but guaranteed to be present if conditions are near chemical equilibrium including, but not limited to, atoms and ions of Fe, Ti, Ni, Ca, Cr, Mn, and SiO. Using the PHOENIX atmosphere model, we describe how the short-wavelength transit spectrum varies with equilibrium temperature between 1000 K and 4000 K, as well as the effect that the rainout of condensates has at these wavelengths. We define two spectral indices to quantify the strength of the NUV and blue absorption compared to that in the red-optical, finding that the NUV transit depth will significantly exceed the transit depth from Rayleigh scattering alone for all hot Jupiters down to around 1000 K. In the blue-optical, hot Jupiters warmer than 2000 K will have transit depths larger than that from Rayleigh scattering, but below 2000 K, Rayleigh scattering can dominate, if present. We further show that these spectral indices may be used to trace the effects of rainout. We then compare our simulated transit spectra to existing observations of WASP-12b, WASP-33b, WASP-76b, and WASP-121b. Further observation of exoplanets at these wavelengths should be prioritized in the coming years as the Hubble Space Telescope nears the end of its operational capability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL14
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 20 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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