The theory of transmission spectra revisited: a fast method for analyzing WFC3 data and an unresolved challenge [EPA]

The computation of transmission spectra is a central ingredient in the study of exoplanetary atmospheres. First, we revisit the theory of transmission spectra, unifying ideas from several workers in the literature. Transmission spectra lack an absolute normalization due to the a priori unknown value of a reference transit radius, which is tied to an unknown reference pressure. We show that there is a degeneracy between the uncertainty in the transit radius, the assumed value of the reference pressure (typically set to 10 bar) and the inferred value of the water abundance when interpreting a WFC3 transmission spectrum. Second, we demonstrate that transmission spectra may be assumed to be isobaric, which simplifies the data analysis. We validate the isothermal, isobaric analytical formula for the transmission spectrum against full numerical calculations and show that the typical errors are $\sim 0.1\%$ ($\sim 10$ ppm) within the WFC3 range of wavelengths. Third, we generalize the previous formula for the transit radius to include a small temperature gradient. Finally, we analyze the measured WFC3 transmission spectrum of WASP-12b and demonstrate that we obtain consistent results with the retrieval approach of Kreidberg et al. (2015) if the reference transit radius and reference pressure are fixed to assumed values. The unknown functional relationship between the reference transit radius and reference pressure implies that it is the product of the water abundance and reference pressure that is being retrieved from the data, and not just the water abundance alone. This degeneracy leads to a fundamental limitation on how accurately we may extract molecular abundances from transmission spectra. We suggest an approximate expression for this relationship.

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K. Heng and D. Kitzmann
Wed, 8 Feb 17

Comments: 9 pages, 6 figures, 2 tables

Room temperature line lists for CO\2 symmetric isotopologues with \textit{ab initio} computed intensities [EPA]

Remote sensing experiments require high-accuracy, preferably sub-percent, line intensities and in response to this need we present computed room temperature line lists for six symmetric isotopologues of carbon dioxide: $^{13}$C$^{16}$O$_2$, $^{14}$C$^{16}$O$_2$, $^{12}$C$^{17}$O$_2$, $^{12}$C$^{18}$O$_2$, $^{13}$C$^{17}$O$_2$ and $^{13}$C$^{18}$O$_2$, covering the range 0-8000 \cm. Our calculation scheme is based on variational nuclear motion calculations and on a reliability analysis of the generated line intensities. Rotation-vibration wavefunctions and energy levels are computed using the DVR3D software suite and a high quality semi-empirical potential energy surface (PES), followed by computation of intensities using an \abinitio\ dipole moment surface (DMS). Four line lists are computed for each isotopologue to quantify sensitivity to minor distortions of the PES/DMS. Reliable lines are benchmarked against recent state-of-the-art measurements and against the HITRAN2012 database, supporting the claim that the majority of line intensities for strong bands are predicted with sub-percent accuracy. Accurate line positions are generated using an effective Hamiltonian. We recommend the use of these line lists for future remote sensing studies and their inclusion in databases.

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E. Zak, J. Tennyson, O. Polyansky, et. al.
Tue, 31 Jan 17

Comments: N/A

Forecasting surface layer atmospheric parameters at the LBT site [IMA]

In this paper we quantify the performances of an automated weather forecast system implemented on the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) site at Mt. Graham (Arizona) in forecasting the main atmospheric parameters close to the ground. The system employs a mesoscale non-hydrostatic numerical model (Meso-Nh). To validate the model we compare the forecasts of wind speed, wind direction, temperature and relative humidity close to the ground with the respective values measured by instrumentation installed on the telescope dome. The study is performed over a large sample of nights uniformly distributed over two years. The quantitative analysis is done using classical statistical operators (bias, RMSE and $\sigma$) and contingency tables, which allows to extract complementary key information, such as the percentage of correct detection (PC) and the probability to obtain a correct detection within a defined interval of values (POD). Results of our study indicate that the model performances in forecasting the atmospheric parameters we have just cited are very good, in some cases excellent: RMSE for temperature is below 1{\deg} C, for relative humidity is 14%, for the wind speed is around 2.5m/s. The relative error of the RMSE for wind direction varies from 9% to 17% depending on the wind speed conditions. This work is performed in the context of ALTA (Advanced LBT Turbulence and Atmosphere) Center project, which final goal is to provide forecasts of all the atmospheric parameters and the optical turbulence to support LBT observations, adaptive optics facilities and interferometric facilities.

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A. Turchi, E. Masciadri and L. Fini
Thu, 26 Jan 17

Comments: this http URL 22 pages, 16 figures, 21 tables

A Condensation-Coalescence Cloud Model for Exoplanetary Atmospheres: Formulation and Test Applications to Terrestrial and Jovian Clouds [EPA]

A number of transiting exoplanets have featureless transmission spectra that might suggest the presence of clouds at high altitudes. A realistic cloud model is necessary to understand the atmospheric conditions under which such high-altitude clouds can form. In this study, we present a new cloud model that takes into account the microphysics of both condensation and coalescence. Our model provides the vertical profiles of the size and density of cloud and rain particles in an updraft for a given set of physical parameters, including the updraft velocity and the number density of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). We test our model by comparing with observations of trade-wind cumuli on the Earth and ammonia ice clouds in Jupiter. For trade-wind cumuli, the model including both condensation and coalescence gives predictions that are consistent with observations, while the model including only condensation overestimates the mass density of cloud droplets by up to an order of magnitude. For Jovian ammonia clouds, the condensation-coalescence model simultaneously reproduces the effective particle radius, cloud optical thickness, and cloud geometric thickness inferred from Voyager observations if the updraft velocity and CCN number density are taken to be consistent with the results of moist convection simulations and Galileo probe measurements, respectively. These results suggest that the coalescence of condensate particles is important not only in terrestrial water clouds but also in Jovian ice clouds. Our model will be useful to understand how the dynamics, compositions, and nucleation processes in exoplanetary atmospheresaffects the vertical extent and optical thickness of exoplanetary clouds via cloud microphysics.

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K. Ohno and S. Okuzumi
Thu, 5 Jan 17

Comments: 11 pages, 7 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ

Evaluating the wind-induced mechanical noise on the InSight seismometers [CL]

The SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures) instrument onboard the InSight mission to Mars is the critical instrument for determining the interior structure of Mars, the current level of tectonic activity and the meteorite flux. Meeting the performance requirements of the SEIS instrument is vital to successfully achieve these mission objectives. Here we analyse in-situ wind measurements from previous Mars space missions to understand the wind environment that we are likely to encounter on Mars, and then we use an elastic ground deformation model to evaluate the mechanical noise contributions on the SEIS instrument due to the interaction between the Martian winds and the InSight lander. Lander mechanical noise maps that will be used to select the best deployment site for SEIS once the InSight lander arrives on Mars are also presented. We find the lander mechanical noise may be a detectable signal on the InSight seismometers. However, for the baseline SEIS deployment position, the noise is expected to be below the total noise requirement >97% of the time and is, therefore, not expected to endanger the InSight mission objectives.

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N. Murdoch, D. Mimoun, R. Garcia, et. al.
Wed, 14 Dec 16

Comments: 32 pages, 16 figures

Optical turbulence forecast: ready for an operational application [IMA]

One of the main goals of the feasibility study MOSE (MOdellig ESO Sites) is to evaluate the performances of a method conceived to forecast the optical turbulence above the ESO sites of the Very Large Telescope and the European-Extremely Large Telescope in Chile. The method implied the use of a dedicated code conceived for the optical turbulence (OT) called Astro-Meso-Nh. In this paper we present results we obtained at conclusion of this project concerning the performances of this method in forecasting the most relevant parameters related to the optical turbulence (CN2, seeing , isoplanatic angle theta_0 and wavefront coherence time tau_0). Numerical predictions related to a very rich statistical sample of nights uniformly distributed along a solar year and belonging to different years have been compared to observations and different statistical operators have been analyzed such as classical bias, RMSE and and more sophisticated statistical operators derived by the contingency tables that are able to quantify the score of success of a predictive method such as the percentage of correct detection (PC) and the probability to detect a parameter within a specific range of values (POD). The main conclusions of the study tell us that the Astro-Meso-Nh model provides performances that are already very good to definitely guarantee a not negligible positive impact on the Service Mode of top-class telescopes and ELTs. A demonstrator for an automatic and operational version of the Astro-Meso-Nh model will be soon implemented on the sites of VLT and E-ELT.

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E. Masciadri, F. Lascaux, A. Turchi, et. al.
Mon, 5 Dec 16

Comments: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in MNRAS following peer review. The version of record [doi: 10.1093/mnras/stw3111] is available online at: this http URL&ijkey=te4TKA10zzdydVK. 13 figures

An Optical Atmospheric Phenomenon Observed in 1670 over the City of Astrakhan Was not a Mid-Latitude Aurora [CL]

It has been recently claimed (Zolotova and Ponyavin, Solar Phys., 291, 2869, 2016, ZP16 henceforth) that a mid-latitude optical phenomenon, which took place over the city of Astrakhan in July 1670, according to Russian chronicles, was a strong aurora borealis. If this was true, it would imply a very strong or even severe geomagnetic storm during the quietest part of the Maunder minimum. However, as we argue in this article, this conclusion is erroneous and caused by a misinterpretation of the chronicle record. As a result of a thorough analysis of the chronicle text, we show that the described phenomenon occurred during the daylight period of the day (“the last morning hour”), in the south direction (“towards noon”), and its description does not match that of an aurora. The date of the event was also incorrectly interpreted. We conclude that this phenomenon was not a mid-latitude aurora but an atmospheric phenomenon, the so-called sundog (or parhelion) which is a particular type of solar halo. Accordingly, the claim about a strong mid-latitude aurora during the deep Maunder minimum is not correct and should be dismissed.

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I. Usoskin, G. Kovaltsov, L. Mishina, et. al.
Mon, 5 Dec 16

Comments: accepted to Solar Physics