Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Topics in Extrasolar Planet Characterization
by Howe, Alex Ryan, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2016, 251; 10167564
Abstract (Summary)

I present four papers exploring different topics in the area of characterizing the atmospheric and bulk properties of extrasolar planets. In these papers, I present two new codes, in various forms, for modeling these objects. A code to generate theoretical models of transit spectra of exoplanets is featured in the first paper and is refined and expanded into the APOLLO code for spectral modeling and parameter retrieval in the fourth paper. Another code to model the internal structure and evolution of planets is featured in the second and third papers. The first paper presents transit spectra models of GJ 1214b and other super-Earth and mini-Neptune type planets—planets with a “solid”, terrestrial composition and relatively small planets with a thick hydrogen-helium atmosphere, respectively—and fit them to observational data to estimate the atmospheric compositions and cloud properties of these planets. The second paper presents structural models of super-Earth and mini-Neptune type planets and estimates their bulk compositions from mass and radius estimates. The third paper refines these models with evolutionary calculations of thermal contraction and ultraviolet-driven mass loss. Here, we estimate the boundaries of the parameter space in which planets lose their initial hydrogen-helium atmospheres completely, and we also present formation and evolution scenarios for the planets in the Kepler-11 system. The fourth paper uses more refined transit spectra models, this time for hot jupiter type planets, to explore the methods to design optimal observing programs for the James Webb Space Telescope to quantitatively measure the atmospheric compositions and other properties of these planets.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burrows, Adam S.
Commitee: Bakos, Gaspar A., Goodman, Jeremy, Turner, Edwin L.
School: Princeton University
Department: Astrophysical Sciences
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-B 78/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Astrophysics
Keywords: Atmospheres, Information theory, Mass loss, Planetary structure, Planets, Transit spectroscopy
Publication Number: 10167564
ISBN: 978-1-369-21912-8
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