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Title: Towards a population of exoplanetary atmospheres
Author: Tsiaras, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 8372
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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Today, more that 3500 exoplanets have been detected and, despite the significant progress in the field of atmospheric characterisation in the last decade, we still have a limited understanding for a small number of planets. Similarly to the field of exoplanetary detection, atmospheric population studies are the way forward in constraining which is the current condition of planets, how did they form, and how have they evolved. One of the most successful instruments for observing exoplanetary atmospheres is the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. In particular, the use of the spatial scanning technique has given the opportunity for even more efficient observations of the brightest targets, achieving the necessary precision of 10 to 100 ppm to the flux of the star. This thesis describes the main characteristics of the WFC3/IR instrument and the process followed to extract the planetary transmission spectrum from time series of spatially scanned infrared spectra. Subsequently, I focus on the development of an automatic pipeline that enabled the analysis of the largest population of exoplanetary atmospheres, with 30 planets. This approach is vital for data processing in the future, as more dedicated instruments will provide a large number of observations. In addition, I describe the use of the above software to extract the transmission spectrum of the hot super-Earth 55 Cancri e, which suggests the existence of a light-weighted atmosphere around this planet. Finally, Wayne, a simulator focused on reproducing the above observations, is presented. The parallel development of both the data analysis and simulation software ensured the validity of the different steps in the data analysis process, especially when coupling between different kinds of instrumental systematics was present.
Supervisor: Tinetti, Giovanna ; Waldmann, Ingo Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available