The Effects of Stellar Activity on Optical High-resolution Exoplanet Transmission Spectra

P. Wilson Cauley, Christoph Kuckein, Seth Redfield, Evgenya Shkolnik, Carsten Denker, Joe Llama, Meetu Verma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Chromospherically sensitive atomic lines display different spectra in stellar active regions, spots, and the photosphere, raising the possibility that exoplanet transmission spectra are contaminated by the contrast between various portions of the stellar disk. To explore this effect, we performed transit simulations of G-type and K-type stars for the spectral lines Ca ii K at 3933 ∗, Na i 5890 ∗, H i 6563 ∗ (Hα), and He i 10830 ∗. We find that strong facular emission and large coverage fractions can contribute a non-negligible amount to transmission spectra, especially for Hα, Ca ii K, and Na i D, while spots and filaments are comparatively unimportant. The amount of contamination depends strongly on the location of the active regions and the intrinsic emission strength. In particular, active regions must be concentrated along the transit chord in order to produce a consistent in-transit signal. Mean absorption signatures in Na i and Hα, for example, can reach ≈0.2% and 0.3%, respectively, for transits of active latitudes with line emission similar in strength to moderate solar flares. Transmission spectra of planets transiting active stars, such as HD 189733, are likely contaminated by the contrast effect, although the tight constraints on active region geometry and emission strength make it unlikely that consistent in-transit signatures are due entirely to the contrast effect. He i 10830 ∗ is not strongly affected and absorption signatures are likely diluted, rather than enhanced, by stellar activity. He i 10830 ∗ should thus be considered a priority for probing extended atmospheres, even in the case of active stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number189
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Sun: chromosphere
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • stars: activity
  • stars: chromospheres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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