Patrick D. Fischer, Heather A. Knutson, David K. Sing, Gregory W. Henry, Michael W. Williamson, Jonathan J. Fortney, Adam S. Burrows, Tiffany Kataria, Nikolay Nikolov, Adam P. Showman, Gilda E. Ballester, Jean Michel Désert, Suzanne Aigrain, Drake Deming, Alain Lecavelier Des Etangs, Alfred Vidal-Madjar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


We present the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) optical transmission spectroscopy of the cool Saturn-mass exoplanet WASP-39b from 0.29-1.025 μm, along with complementary transit observations from Spitzer IRAC at 3.6 and 4.5 μm. The low density and large atmospheric pressure scale height of WASP-39b make it particularly amenable to atmospheric characterization using this technique. We detect a Rayleigh scattering slope as well as sodium and potassium absorption features; this is the first exoplanet in which both alkali features are clearly detected with the extended wings predicted by cloud-free atmosphere models. The full transmission spectrum is well matched by a clear H2-dominated atmosphere, or one containing a weak contribution from haze, in good agreement with the preliminary reduction of these data presented in Sing et al. WASP-39b is predicted to have a pressure-temperature profile comparable to that of HD 189733b and WASP-6b, making it one of the coolest transiting gas giants observed in our HST STIS survey. Despite this similarity, WASP-39b appears to be largely cloud-free, while the transmission spectra of HD 189733b and WASP-6b both indicate the presence of high altitude clouds or hazes. These observations further emphasize the surprising diversity of cloudy and cloud-free gas giant planets in short-period orbits and the corresponding challenges associated with developing predictive cloud models for these atmospheres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • planetary systems
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • stars: individual (WASP-39)
  • techniques: spectroscopic


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