Beyond Detection: Constraining Properties of Exoplanet Atmospheres
Abstract: The bulk of exoplanet science to date has focused on planet detection with large-scale ground-based surveys and space-based facilities such as the Kepler Space Telescope. The past decade, however, has seen steady growth in observational and theoretical efforts aimed at understanding global chemical, radiative, and dynamical processes shaping exoplanet atmospheres. Here I will describe my recent efforts to provide robust constraints on giant exoplanet atmospheric properties through a mixture of observational and theoretical efforts that leverage my expertise as a planetary scientist and astronomer. Such constraints are critical for refining our theories of planetary atmosphere formation and evolution. I will highlight recent results from our large-scale exoplanet comparative studies with the Hubble Space Telescope (600+ orbits) that are challenging our theories about planetary atmospheric chemistry. Additionally, I will highlight my recent efforts to probe radiative and dynamical processes in exoplanet atmospheres using both three-dimensional atmospheric models and observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope (1000+ hours). These studies are establishing a solid foundation on which to build future observations with the James Webb Space Telescope and refining the observational and theoretical techniques that will be leveraged in pursuit of answering the questions “How did we get here?” and “Are we alone?”.