LRG-BEASTS: Transmission Spectroscopy and Retrieval Analysis of the Highly Inflated Saturn-mass Planet WASP-39b

LRG-BEASTS: Transmission Spectroscopy and Retrieval Analysis of the Highly Inflated Saturn-mass Planet WASP-39bKirk, JamesLópez-Morales, MercedesWheatley, Peter J.Weaver, Ian C.Skillen, IanLouden, TomMcCormac, JamesEspinoza, NéstorDOI: info:10.3847/1538-3881/ab397dv. 158144
Kirk, James, López-Morales, Mercedes, Wheatley, Peter J., Weaver, Ian C., Skillen, Ian, Louden, Tom, McCormac, James, and Espinoza, Néstor. 2019. "LRG-BEASTS: Transmission Spectroscopy and Retrieval Analysis of the Highly Inflated Saturn-mass Planet WASP-39b." The Astronomical Journal 158:144. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-3881/ab397d
ID: 154617
Type: article
Authors: Kirk, James; López-Morales, Mercedes; Wheatley, Peter J.; Weaver, Ian C.; Skillen, Ian; Louden, Tom; McCormac, James; Espinoza, Néstor
Abstract: We present a ground-based transmission spectrum and comprehensive retrieval analysis of the highly inflated Saturn-mass planet WASP-39b. We obtained low-resolution spectra (R ≈ 400) of a transit of WASP-39b using the ACAM instrument on the 4.2 m William Herschel Telescope as part of the LRG-BEASTS survey. Our transmission spectrum is in good agreement with previous ground- and space-based observations of WASP- 39b, and covers a wavelength range of 4000-9000 Å. Previous analyses of this exoplanet have retrieved water abundances that span more than four orders of magnitude, which in turn lead to conclusions of a subsolar or highly supersolar atmospheric metallicity. In order to determine the cause of the large discrepancies in the literature regarding WASP-39b's atmospheric metallicity, we performed retrieval analyses of all literature data sets. Our retrievals, which assume equilibrium chemistry, recovered highly supersolar metallicities for all data sets. When running our retrievals on a combined spectrum, spanning 0.3-5 μm, we recovered an atmospheric metallicity of {282}-58+65× solar. We find that stellar activity has a negligible effect on the derived abundances and instead conclude that different assumptions made during retrieval analyses lead to the reported water abundances that differ by orders of magnitude. This in turn has significant consequences for the conclusions we draw. This is the fourth planet to be observed as part of the LRG-BEASTS survey, which is demonstrating that 4 m class telescopes can obtain low-resolution transmission spectra with precisions of around one atmospheric scale height.