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Planet 40

Higher-order atmospheric effects in the optical occultations and phase curves of exoplanets

Principal Investigators

  • Dr. Antonio García Muñoz
    Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin


Exoplanet science is rapidly progressing from detection of planets towards the characterization of their atmospheres and surfaces. The occultation and phase curve of an exoplanet provides key information on the planet envelope. In the proposed research project, we will investigate:

  • the potential of exoplanet occultations and phase curves at optical wavelengths for the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres;
  • how optical and infrared observations of occultations and phase curves complement each other.

Our investigation will assess the joint impact of both atmospheric and non-atmospheric effects on the measurements, and our capacity to subsequently disentangle these effects. This timely effort will help maximize the diagnostics capacities of the measurements delivered by several space missions expected for this decade.


Óscar Carrión-González


In November 2019, the European COST Association (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) funded our proposal for a short-term scientific mission (STSM) to the Universidade do Porto (Portugal). There, our colleagues from the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA) were hosting the MW-Gaia WG3 Workshop “Exoplanets in the era of GAIA”.

The goal of this STSM was to get to collaborate with European groups working on radial velocity and astrometry, in order to study synergies with future direct-imaging missions. During this 2-week visit, I learnt about how GAIA data will benefit other exoplanet-focused missions. Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to approach the use of exoplanet databases and data analysis techniques. The stay at IA after the workshop allowed me to know more about their expertise on radial velocity measurements and stellar physics. This was a great counterpart to the knowledge that my group at TU Berlin and DLR Berlin has on transit observations and phase curves of exoplanets.

I also had the opportunity to present my current work about direct-imaging and discuss many details with them. It was great to have feedback and comments from an observational point of view. Besides, we could begin a new collaboration which is being developed and will turn into a peer-reviewed paper. For that, my STSM host (Nuno C. Santos) is actively involved and will be part of the final work.

The key message I take from this MW-Gaia workshop and this STSM is: we are only half-way through the process of understanding the great diversity of exoplanets. Since transit detection is a very fruitful method to discover exoplanets, we have an observational bias towards hot, short-period planets. Currently, more and more exoplanets are being detected by radial-velocity technique. These planets are colder than the ones observed in transit. Soon, astrometry will help discovering more of these far-orbiting planets. Direct-imaging missions such as WFIRST or future projects such as LUVOIR and HabEx will characterise the atmospheres of these cold and temperate planets that do not transit. There is a lot of exciting science to be done and many possibilities for collaboration between research groups.

Synergies between astrometry, radial velocity and future direct imaging

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