Thomas M. Evans, David K. Sing, Jayesh M. Goyal, Nikolay Nikolov, Mark S. Marley, Kevin Zahnle, Gregory W. Henry, Joanna K. Barstow, Munazza K. Alam, Jorge Sanz-Forcada, Tiffany Kataria, Nikole K. Lewis, Panayotis Lavvas, Gilda E. Ballester, Lotfi Ben-Jaffel, Sarah D. Blumenthal, Vincent Bourrier, Benjamin Drummond, Antonio García Muñoz, Mercedes López-Morales, Pascal Tremblin, David Ehrenreich, Hannah R. Wakeford, Lars A. Buchhave, Alain Lecavelier des Etangs, Éric Hébrard, and Michael H. Williamson. 2018. An Optical Transmission Spectrum for the Ultra-hot Jupiter WASP-121b Measured with the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomical Journal 156, 6, DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aaebff
We present an atmospheric transmission spectrum for the ultra-hot Jupiter WASP-121b, measured using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on board the Hubble Space Telescope. Across the 0.47-1 mu m wavelength range, the data imply an atmospheric opacity comparable to-and in some spectroscopic channels exceeding-that previously measured at near-infrared wavelengths (1.15-1.65 mu m). Wavelength-dependent variations in the opacity rule out a gray cloud deck at a confidence level of 3.7 sigma and may instead be explained by VO spectral bands. We find a cloud-free model assuming chemical equilibrium for a temperature of 1500 K and a metal enrichment of 10-30x solar matches these data well. Using a free-chemistry retrieval analysis, we estimate a VO abundance of -6.6(-0.3)(+0.2) dex. We find no evidence for TiO and place a 3 sigma upper limit of -7.9 dex on its abundance, suggesting TiO may have condensed from the gas phase at the day-night limb. The opacity rises steeply at the shortest wavelengths, increasing by approximately five pressure scale heights from 0.47 to 0.3 mu m in wavelength. If this feature is caused by Rayleigh scattering due to uniformly distributed aerosols, it would imply an unphysically high temperature of 6810 +/- 1530 K. One alternative explanation for the short-wavelength rise is absorption due to SH (mercapto radical), which has been predicted as an important product of non-equilibrium chemistry in hot Jupiter atmospheres. Irrespective of the identity of the NUV absorber, it likely captures a significant amount of incident stellar radiation at low pressures, thus playing a significant role in the overall energy budget, thermal structure, and circulation of the atmosphere.