Detection of Paschen β absorption in the atmosphere of KELT-9 b. A new window into the atmospheres of ultra-hot Jupiters

Publication date: 
Main author: 
Sánchez-López, A.
IAA authors: 
Lampón, M.;López-Puertas, M.
Sánchez-López, A.;Lin, L.;Snellen, I. A. G.;Casasayas-Barris, N.;García Muñoz, A.;Lampón, M.;López-Puertas, M.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Publication type: 
Hydrogen and helium transmission signals trace the upper atmospheres of hot gas-giant exoplanets, where the incoming stellar extreme ultraviolet and X-ray fluxes are deposited. Further, for the hottest stars, the near-ultraviolet excitation of hydrogen in the Balmer continuum may play a dominant role in controlling the atmospheric temperature and driving photoevaporation. KELT-9 b is the archetypal example of such an environment as it is the hottest gas-giant exoplanet known to date (T<SUB>eq</SUB> ∼ 4500 K) and orbits an A0V-type star. Studies of the upper atmosphere and escaping gas of this ultra-hot Jupiter have targeted the absorption in the Balmer series of hydrogen (n<SUB>1</SUB> = 2 → n<SUB>2</SUB> &gt; 2). Unfortunately, the lowermost metastable helium state that causes the triplet absorption at 1083 Å is not sufficiently populated for detection. This is due to the low extreme-ultraviolet and X-ray fluxes from the host star, and to its high near-ultraviolet flux, which depopulates this metastable state. Here, we present evidence of hydrogen absorption in the Paschen series in the transmission spectrum of KELT-9 b observed with the high-resolution spectrograph CARMENES. Specifically, we focus on the strongest line covered by its near-infrared channel, Paβ at 12 821.6 Å (n<SUB>1</SUB> = 3 → n<SUB>2</SUB> = 5). The observed absorption shows a contrast of (0.53 <SUB>−0.13</SUB><SUP>+0.12</SUP>)%, a blueshift of −14.8 <SUB>−3.2</SUB><SUP>+3.5</SUP> km s<SUP>−1</SUP>, and a full width at half maximum of 31.9<SUB>−8.3</SUB><SUP>+11.8</SUP> km s<SUP>−1</SUP>. The observed blueshift in the absorption feature could be explained by day-to-night circulation within the gravitationally bound atmosphere or, alternatively, by Paβ absorption originating in a tail of escaping gas moving toward the observer as a result of extreme atmospheric evaporation. This detection opens a new window for investigating the atmospheres of ultra-hot Jupiters, providing additional constraints of their temperature structure, mass-loss rates, and dynamics for future modeling of their scorching atmospheres.
ADS Bibcode: 
planets and satellites: atmospheres;planets and satellites: gaseous planets;planets and satellites: individual: KELT-9 b;Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics