9 mars 2017
Detecting and studying the magnetic fields of exoplanets will allow for the investigation of their interior structure, rotation period, atmospheric dynamics and escape, moons, and potential habitability. It was postulated that the magnetic fields of short-period exoplanets could be constrained if their near-UV light curves start earlier than in their optical light curves. This effect can be explained by the presence of a bow shock in front of the planet formed by interactions between the stellar coronal material and the planet’s magnetosphere. Furthermore, if the shocked material in the magnetosheath is optically thick, it will absorb starlight and cause an early ingress in the near-UV light curve. We observed the transits of 19 short-period exoplanets from the ground in the near-UV. All of our observations resulted in non-detections of the desired effect but we can still put constraints on the planetary atmospheres with our data. To explain our non-detections we simulate the atomic physics, chemistry, radiation transport, and dynamics of the plasma characteristics in the vicinity of short-period exoplanets using the code CLOUDY. Using CLOUDY we have investigated whether there is an absorption species in the near-UV that can exist to cause an observable early ingress. We find that there isn’t a species in any wavelength (including near-UV) that can cause an absorption. Therefore, we show though observations and theory that the near-UV transit method for detecting exoplanet magnetic fields needs to be updated. Additionally, we also simulate escaping planetary gas in ionization and thermal equilibrium with the stellar radiation field with CLOUDY Promising sources of opacity from the X-ray to radio wavelengths are found, some of which are not yet observed.