Transiting exoplanet studies and community targets for JWSTʼs early release science program

Kevin B. Stevenson, Nikole K. Lewis, Jacob L. Bean, Charles Beichman, Jonathan Fraine, Brian M. Kilpatrick, J. E. Krick, Joshua D. Lothringer, Avi M. Mandell, Jeff A. Valenti, Eric Agol, Daniel Angerhausen, Joanna K. Barstow, Stephan M. Birkmann, Adam S. Burrows, David Charbonneau, Nicolas B. Cowan, Nicolas Crouzet, Patricio E. Cubillos, S. M. CurryPaul A. Dalba, Julien de Wit, Drake Deming, Jean Michel Désert, René Doyon, Diana Dragomir, David Ehrenreich, Jonathan J. Fortney, Antonio García Muñoz, Neale P. Gibson, John E. Gizis, Thomas P. Greene, Joseph Harrington, Kevin Heng, Tiffany Kataria, Eliza M.R. Kempton, Heather Knutson, Laura Kreidberg, David Lafrenière, Pierre Olivier Lagage, Michael R. Line, Mercedes Lopez-Morales, Nikku Madhusudhan, Caroline V. Morley, Marco Rocchetto, Everett Schlawin, Evgenya L. Shkolnik, Avi Shporer, David K. Sing, Kamen O. Todorov, Gregory S. Tucker, Hannah R. Wakeford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will likely revolutionize transiting exoplanet atmospheric science, due to a combination of its capability for continuous, long duration observations and its larger collecting area,spectral coverage, and spectral resolution compared to existing space-based facilities. However, it is unclear precisely how well JWST will perform and which of its myriad instruments and observing modes will be best suited for transiting exoplanet studies. In this article, we describe a prefatory JWST Early Release Science (ERS) Cycle 1 program that focuses on testing specific observing modes to quickly give the community the data and experience it needs to plan more efficient and successful transiting exoplanet characterization programs in later cycles. We propose a multi-pronged approach wherein one aspect of the program focuses on observing transits of a single target with all of the recommended observing modes to identify and understand potential systematics, compare transmission spectra at overlapping and neighboring wavelength regions, confirm throughputs, and determine overall performances. In our search for transiting exoplanets that are well suited to achieving these goals, we identify 12 objects (dubbed “community targets”) that meet our defined criteria. Currently, the most favorable target is WASP-62b because of its large predicted signal size, relatively bright host star, and location in JWSTʼs continuous viewing zone. Since most of the community targets do not have well-characterized atmospheres, we recommend initiating preparatory observing programs to determine the presence of obscuring clouds/hazes within their atmospheres. Measurable spectroscopic features are needed to establish the optimal resolution and wavelength regions for exoplanet characterization. Other initiatives from our proposed ERS program include testing the instrument brightness limits and performing phase-curve observations. The latter are a unique challenge compared to transit observations because of their significantly longer durations. Using only a single mode, we propose to observe a full-orbit phase curve of one of the previously characterized, short-orbitalperiod planets to evaluate the facility-level aspects of long, uninterrupted time-series observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number094401
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number967
StatePublished - Sep 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Atmospheres – planets and satellites
  • Individual – telescopes
  • Planets and satellites


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