Wednesday 16 Jul 2014: Extrasolar Storms: Mapping Cloud Cover and Atmospheric Dynamics in Brown Dwarfs and Exoplanets
Prof Daniel Apai - University of Arizona
Physics, 4th floor 14:00-15:00
Astronomy has entered an exciting new era when the atmospheres of exoplanets can be studied in detail. Observations of directly imaged and transiting exoplanets and brown dwarfs revealed the presence of condensate clouds that strongly influence the energy transport through the planetary atmospheres and influence the evolution of the atmospheres and the emerging spectra. The structure and properties of these cloud layers remain mostly unknown and pose one of the outstanding challenges in understanding ultracool atmospheres. I will introduce a new observing technique in this field, rotational phase mapping, that provides an exciting look into the atmospheres and clouds of exoplanets and ultracool brown dwarfs. I will discuss multiple Hubble and Spitzer programs, including a 1,144-hour Exploration Science program, that apply this new technique to a large number of targets and provide spatially resolved cloud maps. The data paints an exciting and often surprising picture on ultracool photospheres. I will show that the success of this observational technique also motivates future applications on directly imaged gas giant exoplanets and super-earths, whose photospheres and surface can be mapped in the near future.