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D. Deming (NASA's GSFC)
The direct detection of thermal emission from close-in extrasolar giant planets by the Spitzer Space Telescope naturally raises the question of what will be possible using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It is well known that JWST will have powerful capabilities to detect and characterize circumstellar debris disks associated with planetary systems. But JWST will be also capable of detecting transiting extrasolar planets directly in the infrared, by observing the decrement in flux during secondary eclipse. The 6-meter aperture of JWST will in principle allow detection of much smaller and colder planets than is possible from Spitzer. Scaling the Spitzer detections to the larger aperture of JWST suggests that virtually every transiting hot Jupiter to be detected by the Kepler mission could be detected in the thermal infrared by JWST. Detection of thermal emission from a transiting planet identical to our Earth, with an orbital radius of 1 AU, is probably beyond the capability of JWST. However, JWST detection of some close-in terrestrial planets around both solar type and lower main sequence stars should be possible. In favorable cases, JWST will be able to measure the infrared spectra of these “hot Earths”, and search for signatures due to their atmospheres.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.