Theory of extrasolar giant planet transits

W. B. Hubbard, J. J. Fortney, J. I. Lunine, Adam S. Burrows, D. Sudarsky, P. Pinto

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We present a synthesis of physical effects influencing the observed light curve of an extrasolar giant planet (EGP) transiting its host star. The synthesis includes a treatment of Rayleigh scattering, cloud scattering, refraction, and molecular absorption of starlight in the EGP atmosphere. Of these effects, molecular absorption dominates in determining the transit-derived radius R for planetary orbital radii less than a few AU. Using a generic model for the atmosphere of EGP HD 209458b, we perform a fit to the best available transit light-curve data and infer that this planet has a radius at a pressure of 1 bar, R1, equal to 94,430 km, with an uncertainty of ∼500 km arising from plausible uncertainties in the atmospheric temperature profile. We predict that R will be a function of wavelength of observation, with a robust prediction of at least ±1% variations at infrared wavelengths where H2O opacity in the high EGP atmosphere dominates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-419
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Oct 10 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Planetary systems
  • Radiative transfer
  • Stars: individual (HD 209458)


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