Wednesday 13 May 2020: [Seminar] Mass-Metallicity Trends in Transiting Exoplanets
Luis Welbanks - University of Cambridge
Remote seminar 14:00-15:00
Atmospheric compositions can provide powerful diagnostics of formation and migration histories of planetary systems. In this talk, I will present the results of our latest survey of atmospheric compositions focused on atmospheric abundances of H2O, Na, and K. We employ a sample of 19 exoplanets spanning from cool mini-Neptunes to hot Jupiters, with equilibrium temperatures between ~300 and 2700 K. We employ the latest transmission spectra, new H2 broadened opacities of Na and K, and homogeneous Bayesian retrievals. We confirm detections of H2O in 14 planets and detections of Na and K in 6 planets each. Among our sample, we find a mass-metallicity trend of increasing H2O abundances with decreasing mass, spanning generally substellar values for gas giants and stellar/superstellar for Neptunes and mini-Neptunes. However, the overall trend in H2O abundances, is significantly lower than the mass-metallicity relation for carbon in the solar system giant planets and similar predictions for exoplanets. On the other hand, the Na and K abundances for the gas giants are stellar or superstellar, consistent with each other, and generally consistent with the solar system metallicity trend. The H2O abundances in hot gas giants are likely due to low oxygen abundances relative to other elements rather than low overall metallicities, and provide new constraints on their formation mechanisms. Our results show that the differing trends in the abundances of species argue against the use of chemical equilibrium models with metallicity as one free parameter in atmospheric retrievals, as different elements can be differently enhanced.