Spectroscopic characterization of extrasolar planets from ground-, space- and airborne-based observatories
This thesis deals with techniques and results of observations of exoplanets from several platforms. In this work I present and then attempt solutions to particular issues and problems connected to ground- and space-based approaches to spectroscopic characterization of extrasolar planets. Furthermore, I present the future prospects of the airborne observatory, SOFIA, in this field of astronomy.The first part of this thesis covers results of an exploratory study to use near-infrared integral-field-spectroscopy to observe transiting extrasolar planets. I demonstrate how adaptive-optics assisted integral field spectroscopy compares with other spectroscopic techniques currently applied, foremost being slit spectroscopy. An advanced reduction method using elements of a spectral-differential decorrelation and optimized observation strategies is discussed. This concept was tested with K-Band time series observations of secondary eclipses of HD 209458b and HD 189733b obtained with the SINFONI at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), at spectral resolution of R~3000. In ground-based near infrared (NIR) observations, there is considerable likelihood of confusion between telluric absorption features and spectral features in the targeted object. I describe a detailed method that can cope with such confusion by a forward modelling approach employing Earth transmission models. In space-based transit spectroscopy with Hubble's NICMOS instrument, the main source of systematic noise is the perturbation in the instrument's configuration due to the near Earth orbital motion of the spacecraft. I present an extension to a pre-existing data analysis sequence that has allowed me to extract a NIR transmission spectrum of the hot-Neptune class planet GJ 436b from a data set that was highly corrupted by the above mentioned effects. Satisfyingly, I was able to obtain statistical consistency in spectra (acquired over a broad wavelength grid) over two distinct observing visits by HST. Earlier reductions were unable to achieve this feat. This work shows that systematic effecting the spectrophotometric light-curves in HST can be removed to levels needed to observe features in the relatively small scale-height atmospheres of hot Neptune class planets orbiting nearby stars. In the third and final part of this thesis, I develop and discuss possible science cases for the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) in the field of detection and characterization of extrasolar planets. The principle advantages of SOFIA and its suite of instrumentation is illustrated and possible targets are introduced. Possible next generation instrumentation (dedicated to exoplanetary science) is discussed.
- Pub Date:
- November 2010