The Featureless HST/WFC3 Transmission Spectrum of the Rocky Exoplanet GJ 1132b: No Evidence For A Cloud-Free Primordial Atmosphere and Constraints on Starspot Contamination

Jessica E. Libby-Roberts, Zachory K. Berta-Thompson, Hannah Diamond-Lowe, Michael A. Gully-Santiago, Jonathan M. Irwin, Eliza M. -R. Kempton, Benjamin V. Rackham, David Charbonneau, Jean-Michel Desert, Jason A. Dittmann, Ryan Hofmann, Caroline V. Morley, Elisabeth R. Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Orbiting a M dwarf 12 pc away, the transiting exoplanet GJ 1132b is a prime target for transmission spectroscopy. With a mass of 1.7 Earth masses and radius of 1.1 Earth radii, GJ 1132b's bulk density indicates that this planet is rocky. Yet with an equilibrium temperature of 580 K, GJ 1132b may still retain some semblance of an atmosphere. Understanding whether this atmosphere exists and its composition will be vital for understanding how the atmospheres of terrestrial planets orbiting M dwarfs evolve. We observe five transits of GJ 1132b with the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We find a featureless transmission spectrum from 1.1--1.7 microns, ruling out cloud-free atmospheres with metallicities <300x Solar with >4.8σ confidence. We combine our WFC3 results with transit depths from TESS and archival broadband and spectroscopic observations to find a featureless spectrum from 0.7--4.5 microns. GJ 1132b has a high mean molecular weight atmosphere, possesses a high-altitude aerosol layer, or has effectively no atmosphere. Higher precision observations are required to differentiate between these possibilities. We explore the impact of hot and cold starspots on the observed transmission spectrum GJ 1132b, quantifying the amplitude of spot-induced transit depth features. Using a simple Poisson model we estimate spot temperature contrasts, spot covering fractions, and spot sizes for GJ 1132. These limits, and the modeling framework, may be useful for future observations of GJ 1132b or other planets transiting similarly inactive M dwarfs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal
ISSN0004-637X
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021

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