From Brown Dwarfs to Super-Earths: An Observational Study of Weather and Atmospheric Composition
Wilson, Paul A.
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This PhD thesis presents work on the atmospheres of both brown dwarfs and exoplanets from an observers viewpoint. The composition and weather of these worlds are explored starting with M-type brown dwarfs and continuing through the L, T and Y spectral sequence, before entering the planetary regime of hot-Jupiters and super-Earths. The similarities and differences between these objects such as their radii, surface gravities, pressures, temperatures and composition are discussed. This thesis presents new results from an extensive near-infrared monitoring survey of a uniform and unbiased sample of 69 L & T dwarfs spanning the L0 to T8 spectral range. Results show that amongst 14 identified variables, nine of them newly identified, variable brown dwarfs are not concentrated at the L - T transition, nor are they observed in a specific colour, or preferentially in binary systems. The thesis also presents narrow-band photometric measurements of the hot-Jupiter HAT-P-1b and the super-Earth GJ~1214b using the 10.4~m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) and the OSIRIS instrument. Results for HAT-P-1b show a strong presence of potassium in the atmosphere caused by a large scale height, possibly due to higher than anticipated temperatures in the upper atmosphere or the dissociation of molecular hydrogen caused by the UV flux from the host star. Results for GJ 1214b, which constitute the first tunable filter measurements of a super-Earth, find no evidence for the presence of methane showing a featureless transmission spectrum consistent with previous studies.
A&A Vol. 566, p. 111 and MNRAS, Vol. 438, Issue 3, p. 2395-2405
Sing, David K.
PhD in Physics