Two theoretical quandaries involving transmission spectra of gas-giant exoplanets are elucidated. When computing the transit radius as a function of wavelength, one needs to specify a reference transit radius corresponding to a reference pressure. Mathematically, the reference transit radius is a constant of integration that originates from evaluating an integral for the transit depth. Physically, its interpretation has been debated in the literature. Jordán & Espinoza suggested that the optical depth is discontinuous across, and infinite below, the reference transit radius. Bétrémieux & Swain interpreted the spherical surface located at the reference transit radius to represent the boundary associated with an opaque cloud deck. It is demonstrated that continuous functions for the optical depth may be found. The optical depth below and at the reference transit radius need not take on special or divergent values. In the limit of a spatially uniform grey cloud with constant opacity, the transit chord with optical depth of the order of unity mimics the presence of a `cloud top'. While the surface located at the reference pressure may mimic the presence of grey clouds, it is more natural to include the effects of these clouds as part of the opacity function because the cloud opacity may be computed from first principles. It is unclear how this mimicry extends to non-grey clouds comprising small particles.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- December 2019
- planets and satellites: atmospheres;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics;
- Physics - Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics
- Accepted by MNRAS. 7 pages, 2 figures