Eliza M. Kempton - UniversityC. Santa Cruz

Eliza M. Kempton
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Eliza M. Kempton
UniversityC. Santa Cruz
Menlo Park
United States

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (24)
Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (3)
Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (1)

Publications Authored By Eliza M. Kempton

The search for habitable exoplanets and life beyond the Solar System is one of the most compelling scientific opportunities of our time. Nevertheless, the high cost of building facilities that can address this topic and the keen public interest in the results of such research requires the rigorous development of experiments that can deliver a definitive advance in our understanding. Most work to date in this area has focused on a "systems science" approach of obtaining and interpreting comprehensive data for individual planets to make statements about their habitability and the possibility that they harbor life. Read More

The nature of aerosols in hot exoplanet atmospheres is one of the primary vexing questions facing the exoplanet field. The complex chemistry, multiple formation pathways, and lack of easily identifiable spectral features associated with aerosols make it especially challenging to constrain their key properties. We propose a transmission spectroscopy technique to identify the primary aerosol formation mechanism for the most highly irradiated hot Jupiters. Read More

Using forward models for representative exoplanet atmospheres and a radiometric instrument model, we have generated synthetic observational data to explore how well the major C- and O-bearing chemical species (CO, CO2, CH4, and H2O), important for determining atmospheric opacity and radiation balance, can be constrained by transit measurements as a function of spectral wavelength coverage. This work features simulations for a notional transit spectroscopy mission and compares two cases for instrument spectral coverage (wavelength coverage from 0.5-2. Read More

MassSpec, a method for determining the mass of a transiting exoplanet from its transmission spectrum alone, was proposed by \citet{dew13}. The premise of this method relies on the planet's surface gravity being extracted from the transmission spectrum via its effect on the atmospheric scale height, which in turn determines the strength of absorption features. Here, we further explore the applicability of \textit{MassSpec} to low-mass exoplanets -- specifically those in the super-Earth size range for which radial velocity determinations of the planetary mass can be extremely challenging and resource intensive. Read More

We present ground-based observations from the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) of three transits of Kepler-445c---a supposed super-Earth exoplanet with properties resembling GJ 1214b---and demonstrate that the transit depth is approximately 50 percent shallower than the depth previously inferred from Kepler Spacecraft data. The resulting decrease in planetary radius significantly alters the interpretation of the exoplanet's bulk composition. Despite the faintness of the M4 dwarf host star, our ground-based photometry clearly recovers each transit and achieves repeatable 1-sigma precision of approximately 0. Read More

We present Exo-Transmit, a software package to calculate exoplanet transmission spectra for planets of varied composition. The code is designed to generate spectra of planets with a wide range of atmospheric composition, temperature, surface gravity, and size, and is therefore applicable to exoplanets ranging in mass and size from hot Jupiters down to rocky super-Earths. Spectra can be generated with or without clouds or hazes with options to (1) include an optically thick cloud deck at a user-specified atmospheric pressure or (2) to augment the nominal Rayleigh scattering by a user-specified factor. Read More

The James Webb Space Telescope will revolutionize transiting exoplanet atmospheric science due to 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) 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 future transiting exoplanet characterization programs. Read More

Advancements in our understanding of exoplanetary atmospheres, from massive gas giants down to rocky worlds, depend on the constructive challenges between observations and models. We are now on a clear trajectory for improvements in exoplanet observations that will revolutionize our ability to characterize the atmospheric structure, composition, and circulation of these worlds. These improvements stem from significant investments in new missions and facilities, such as JWST and the several planned ground-based extremely large telescopes. Read More

Recent studies have unequivocally proven the existence of clouds in super-Earth atmospheres (Kreidberg et al. 2014). Here we provide a theoretical context for the formation of super-Earth clouds by determining which condensates are likely to form under the assumption of chemical equilibrium. Read More

Planets larger than Earth and smaller than Neptune are some of the most numerous in the galaxy, but observational efforts to understand this population have proved challenging because optically thick clouds or hazes at high altitudes obscure molecular features (Kreidberg et al. 2014b). We present models of super Earths that include thick clouds and hazes and predict their transmission, thermal emission, and reflected light spectra. Read More

This article summarizes a workshop held on March, 2014, on the potential of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to revolutionize our knowledge of the physical properties of exoplanets through transit observations. JWST's unique combination of high sensitivity and broad wavelength coverage will enable the accurate measurement of transits with high signal-to-noise. Most importantly, JWST spectroscopy will investigate planetary atmospheres to determine atomic and molecular compositions, to probe vertical and horizontal structure, and to follow dynamical evolution, i. Read More

We present high resolution transmission spectra of giant planet atmospheres from a coupled 3-D atmospheric dynamics and transmission spectrum model that includes Doppler shifts which arise from winds and planetary motion. We model jovian planets covering more than two orders of magnitude in incident flux, corresponding to planets with 0.9 to 55 day orbital periods around solar-type stars. Read More

Recent results from the Kepler mission indicate that super-Earths (planets with masses between 1-10 times that of the Earth) are the most common kind of planet around nearby Sun-like stars. These planets have no direct solar system analogue, and are currently one of the least well-understood classes of extrasolar planets. Many super-Earths have average densities that are consistent with a broad range of bulk compositions, including both water-dominated worlds and rocky planets covered by a thick hydrogen and helium atmosphere. Read More

GJ 1214b is one of the few known transiting super-Earth-sized exoplanets with a measured mass and radius. It orbits an M-dwarf, only 14.55 pc away, making it a favorable candidate for follow-up studies. Read More

We perform modeling investigations to aid in understanding the atmospheres and composition of small planets of ~2-4 Earth radii, which are now known to be common in our galaxy. GJ 1214b is a well studied example whose atmospheric transmission spectrum has been observed by many investigators. Here we take a step back from GJ 1214b to investigate the role that planetary mass, composition, and temperature play in impacting the transmission spectra of these low-mass low-density (LMLD) planets. Read More

Recent observations of the super-Earth GJ 1214b show that it has a relatively featureless transmission spectrum. One suggestion is that these observations indicate that the planet's atmosphere is vertically compact, perhaps due to a water-rich composition that yields a large mean molecular weight. Another suggestion is that the atmosphere is hydrogen/helium-rich with clouds that obscure predicted absorption features. Read More

Capitalizing on the observational advantage offered by its tiny M dwarf host, we present HST/WFC3 grism measurements of the transmission spectrum of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ1214b. These are the first published WFC3 observations of a transiting exoplanet atmosphere. After correcting for a ramp-like instrumental systematic, we achieve nearly photon-limited precision in these observations, finding the transmission spectrum of GJ1214b to be flat between 1. Read More

Three-dimensional (3-D) dynamical models of hot Jupiter atmospheres predict very strong wind speeds. For tidally locked hot Jupiters, winds at high altitude in the planet's atmosphere advect heat from the day side to the cooler night side of the planet. Net wind speeds on the order of 1-10 km/s directed towards the night side of the planet are predicted at mbar pressures, which is the approximate pressure level probed by transmission spectroscopy. Read More

We present an investigation of the transmission spectrum of the 6.5 M_earth planet GJ1214b based on new ground-based observations of transits of the planet in the optical and near-infrared, and on previously published data. Observations with the VLT+FORS and Magellan+MMIRS using the technique of multi-object spectroscopy with wide slits yielded new measurements of the planet's transmission spectrum from 0. Read More

Affiliations: 1U.C. Santa Cruz, 2NASA Ames Research Center, 3U.C. Santa Cruz

Recent observations of the transiting super-Earth GJ 1214b reveal that its atmosphere may be hydrogen-rich or water-rich in nature, with clouds or hazes potentially affecting its transmission spectrum in the optical and very-near-IR. Here we further examine the possibility that GJ 1214b does indeed possess a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, which is the hypothesis that is favored by models of the bulk composition of the planet. We study the effects of non-equilibrium chemistry (photochemistry, thermal chemistry, and mixing) on the planet's transmission spectrum. Read More

We used WIRCam on CFHT to observe four transits of the super-Earth GJ 1214b in the near-infrared. For each transit we observed in two bands nearly-simultaneously by rapidly switching the WIRCam filter wheel back and forth for the duration of the observations. By combining all our J-band (~1. Read More

We report observations of two consecutive transits of the warm super-Earth exoplanet GJ1214b at 3.6 and 4.5 microns with the Infrared Array Camera instrument on-board the Spitzer Space Telescope. Read More

In contrast to planets with masses similar to that of Jupiter and higher, the bulk compositions of planets in the so-called super-Earth regime cannot be uniquely determined from a mass and radius measurement alone. For these planets, there is a degeneracy between the mass and composition of the interior and a possible atmosphere in theoretical models. The recently discovered transiting super-Earth GJ1214b is one example of this problem. Read More