A framework for prioritizing the TESS planetary candidates most amenable to atmospheric characterization

Eliza M.R. Kempton, Jacob L. Bean, Dana R. Louie, Drake Deming, Daniel D.B. Koll, Megan Mansfield, Jessie L. Christiansen, Mercedes López-Morales, Mark R. Swain, Robert T. Zellem, Sarah Ballard, Thomas Barclay, Joanna K. Barstow, Natasha E. Batalha, Thomas G. Beatty, Zach Berta-Thompson, Jayne Birkby, Lars A. Buchhave, David Charbonneau, Nicolas B. CowanIan Crossfield, Miguel De Val-Borro, Diana Dragomir, Kevin Heng, Renyu Hu, Stephen R. Kane, Laura Kreidberg, Matthias Mallonn, Caroline V. Morley, Norio Narita, Valerio Nascimbeni, Enric Pallé, Elisa V. Quintana, Emily Rauscher, Sara Seager, Evgenya Shkolnik, David K. Sing, Alessandro Sozzetti, Keivan G. Stassun, Carolina Von Essen, Jeff A. Valenti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Scopus citations


A key legacy of the recently launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission will be to provide the astronomical community with many of the best transiting exoplanet targets for atmospheric characterization. However, time is of the essence to take full advantage of this opportunity. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), although delayed, will still complete its nominal five year mission on a timeline that motivates rapid identification, confirmation, and mass measurement of the top atmospheric characterization targets from TESS. Beyond JWST, future dedicated missions for atmospheric studies such as the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) require the discovery and confirmation of several hundred additional sub-Jovian size planets (Rp<10 R⊕) orbiting bright stars, beyond those known today, to ensure a successful statistical census of exoplanet atmospheres. Groundbased extremely large telescopes (ELTs) will also contribute to surveying the atmospheres of the transiting planets discovered by TESS. Here we present a set of two straightforward analytic metrics, quantifying the expected signal-tonoise in transmission and thermal emission spectroscopy for a given planet, that will allow the top atmospheric characterization targets to be readily identified among the TESS planet candidates. Targets that meet our proposed threshold values for these metrics would be encouraged for rapid follow-up and confirmation via radial velocity mass measurements. Based on the catalog of simulated TESS detections by Sullivan et al., we determine appropriate cutoff values of the metrics, such that the TESS mission will ultimately yield a sample of ∼300 high-quality atmospheric characterization targets across a range of planet size bins, extending down to Earth-size, potentially habitable worlds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114401
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number993
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Planets and satellites: Atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: Detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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