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H2O abundances and cloud properties in ten hot giant exoplanets

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Pinhas, A 
Madhusudhan, N 
Gandhi, S 
MacDonald, R 


Transmission spectroscopy of exoplanets has the potential to provide precise measurements of atmospheric chemical abundances, in particular of hot Jupiters whose large sizes and high temperatures make them conducive to such observations. To date, several transmission spectra of hot Jupiters have revealed low amplitude features of water vapour compared to expectations from cloud-free atmospheres of solar metallicity. The low spectral amplitudes in such atmospheres could either be due to the presence of aerosols that obscure part of the atmosphere or due to inherently low abundances of H2O in the atmospheres. A recent survey of transmission spectra of ten hot Jupiters used empirical metrics to suggest atmospheres with a range of cloud/haze properties but with no evidence for H2O depletion. Here, we conduct a detailed and homogeneous atmospheric retrieval analysis of the entire sample and report the H2O abundances, cloud properties, terminator temperature profiles, and detection significances of the chemical species. Our present study finds that the majority of hot Jupiters have atmospheres consistent with sub-solar H2O abundances at their day-night terminators. The best constrained abundances range from log(H2O) of −5.04−0.30+0.46 to −3.16−0.69+0.66, which compared to expectations from solar-abundance equilibrium chemistry correspond to 0.018−0.009+0.035× solar to 1.40−1.11+4.97× solar. Besides H2O we report statistical constraints on other chemical species and cloud/haze properties, including cloud/haze coverage fractions which range from 0.18−0.12+0.26 to 0.76−0.15+0.13. The retrieved H2O abundances suggest sub-solar oxygen and/or super-solar C/O ratios, and can provide important constraints on the formation and migration pathways of hot giant exoplanets.



radiative transfer, methods: data analysis, techniques: spectroscopic, planets and satellites: atmospheres, planets and satellites: composition, planetary systems

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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Oxford University Press (OUP)


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Science and Technology Facilities Council (1638355)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/N000927/1)