The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will likely revolutionize transiting exoplanet atmospheric science, due to a combination of its capability for continuous, long duration observations and its larger collecting area, spectral coverage, and spectral resolution compared to existing space-based facilities. However, it is unclear precisely how well JWST will perform and which of its myriad instruments and observing modes will be best suited for transiting exoplanet studies. In this article, we describe a prefatory JWST Early Release Science (ERS) Cycle 1 program that focuses on testing specific observing modes to quickly give the community the data and experience it needs to plan more efficient and successful transiting exoplanet characterization programs in later cycles. We propose a multi-pronged approach wherein one aspect of the program focuses on observing transits of a single target with all of the recommended observing modes to identify and understand potential systematics, compare transmission spectra at overlapping and neighboring wavelength regions, confirm throughputs, and determine overall performances. In our search for transiting exoplanets that are well suited to achieving these goals, we identify 12 objects (dubbed “community targets”) that meet our defined criteria. Currently, the most favorable target is WASP-62b because of its large predicted signal size, relatively bright host star, and location in JWST's continuous viewing zone. Since most of the community targets do not have well-characterized atmospheres, we recommend initiating preparatory observing programs to determine the presence of obscuring clouds/hazes within their atmospheres. Measurable spectroscopic features are needed to establish the optimal resolution and wavelength regions for exoplanet characterization. Other initiatives from our proposed ERS program include testing the instrument brightness limits and performing phase-curve observations. The latter are a unique challenge compared to transit observations because of their significantly longer durations. Using only a single mode, we propose to observe a full-orbit phase curve of one of the previously characterized, short-orbital-period planets to evaluate the facility-level aspects of long, uninterrupted time-series observations.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
- Pub Date:
- September 2016
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics
- This is a white paper that originated from an open discussion at the Enabling Transiting Exoplanet Science with JWST workshop held November 16 - 18, 2015 at STScI (http://www.stsci.edu/jwst/science/exoplanets). Accepted for publication in PASP