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Photometric Color Correction of the Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS)

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The Star Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) will be a 6U CubeSat devoted to photometric monitoring of M dwarfs in the far-ultraviolet (FUV) and near-ultraviolet (NUV) (160 and 280 nm respectively), measuring the time-dependent spectral slope, intensity and evolution of

The Star Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) will be a 6U CubeSat devoted to photometric monitoring of M dwarfs in the far-ultraviolet (FUV) and near-ultraviolet (NUV) (160 and 280 nm respectively), measuring the time-dependent spectral slope, intensity and evolution of M dwarf stellar UV radiation. The delta-doped detectors baselined for SPARCS have demonstrated more than five times the in-band quantum efficiency of the detectors of GALEX. Given that red:UV photon emission from cool, low-mass stars can be million:one, UV observation of thes stars are susceptible to red light contamination. In addition to the high efficiency delta-doped detectors, SPARCS will include red-rejection filters to help minimize red leak. Even so, careful red-rejection and photometric calibration is needed. As was done for GALEX, white dwarfs are used for photometric calibration in the UV. We find that the use of white dwarfs to calibrate the observations of red stars leads to significant errors in the reported flux, due to the differences in white dwarf and red dwarf spectra. Here we discuss the planned SPARCS calibration model and the color correction, and demonstrate the importance of this correction when recording UV measurements of M stars taken by SPARCS.

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2021-05

Exoplanet meteorology: characterizing the atmospheres of directly imaged sub-stellar objects

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The field of exoplanet science has matured over the past two decades with over 3500 confirmed exoplanets. However, many fundamental questions regarding the composition, and formation mechanism remain unanswered. Atmospheres are a window into the properties of a planet, and

The field of exoplanet science has matured over the past two decades with over 3500 confirmed exoplanets. However, many fundamental questions regarding the composition, and formation mechanism remain unanswered. Atmospheres are a window into the properties of a planet, and spectroscopic studies can help resolve many of these questions. For the first part of my dissertation, I participated in two studies of the atmospheres of brown dwarfs to search for weather variations. To understand the evolution of weather on brown dwarfs we conducted a multi-epoch study monitoring four cool brown dwarfs to search for photometric variability. These cool brown dwarfs are predicted to have salt and sulfide clouds condensing in their upper atmosphere and we detected one high amplitude variable. Combining observations for all T5 and later brown dwarfs we note a possible correlation between variability and cloud opacity.

For the second half of my thesis, I focused on characterizing the atmospheres of directly imaged exoplanets. In the first study Hubble Space Telescope data on HR8799, in wavelengths unobservable from the ground, provide constraints on the presence of clouds in the outer planets. Next, I present research done in collaboration with the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES) team including an exploration of the instrument contrast against environmental parameters, and an examination of the environment of the planet in the HD 106906 system. By analyzing archival HST data and examining the near-infrared colors of HD 106906b, we conclude that the companion shows weak evidence of a circumplanetary dust disk or cloud. Finally, I measure the properties of the low mass directly imaged planet 51 Eridani b. We combined published J, H spectra with updated LP photometry, new K1, K2 spectra, and MS photometry. The new data confirms that the planet has redder than similar spectral type objects, which might be due to the planet still transitioning from to L-to-T. Model atmospheres indicate a cooler effective temperature best fit by a patchy cloud atmosphere making 51 Eri b an excellent candidate for future variability studies with the James Webb Space Telescope.

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2017