Thursday, July 18, 2013

1307.4425 (Duncan Christie et al.)

Hα Absorption in Transiting Exoplanet Atmospheres    [PDF]

Duncan Christie, Phil Arras, Zhi-Yun Li
Absorption of stellar H\alpha\ by the upper atmosphere of the planet HD189733b has recently been detected by Jensen et al. Motivated by this observation, we have developed a model for atomic hydrogen in the n=2 state and compared the resulting H\alpha\ line profile to the observations. The model atmosphere is in hydrostatic balance, as well as thermal and photoionization equilibrium. Collisional and radiative transitions are included in the determination of the n=2 state level population. We find that H\alpha\ absorption is dominated by an optical depth \tau\ ~ 1 shell, composed of hydrogen in the metastable 2s state that is located below the hydrogen ionization layer. The number density of the 2s state within the shell is found to vary slowly with radius, while that of the 1s state falls rapidly. Thus while the Ly\alpha absorption, for a certain wavelength, occurs inside a relatively well defined impact parameter, the contribution to H\alpha\ absorption is roughly uniform over the entire atomic hydrogen layer. The model can approximately reproduce the observed Ly\alpha\ and H\alpha\ integrated transit depths for HD189733b by using an ionization rate enhanced over that expected for the star by an order of magnitude. For HD 209458b, we are unable to explain the asymmetric H\alpha\ line profile observed by Jensen et al., as the model produces a symmetric line profile with transit depth comparable to that of HD 189733b. In an appendix, we study the effect of the stellar Ly\alpha\ absorption on the net cooling rate.
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