LPL Colloquium: Dr. Thaddeus Komacek

Characterizing the Three-dimensional Nature of Hot Gas Giant Exoplanets in the Era of JWST


3:45 to 4:45 p.m., Oct. 17, 2023

Dr. Thaddeus Komacek
Assistant Professor, Astronomy
University of Maryland, College Park

The study of exoplanets has moved from an era of detection to an era of atmospheric characterization, driven by the launch and commissioning of JWST as well as improvements in ground-based instrumental capabilities. This era of characterization will involve both deep studies of individual high signal-to-noise exoplanet atmospheres as well as shallow and broad studies of exoplanet atmospheric demographics. In this talk, I will describe how we can leverage both of these characterization methods to develop a unified framework enabling the understanding of hot gas giant exoplanets. I will discuss the present understanding of the atmospheric circulation of hot and ultra-hot Jupiter exoplanets as derived from interpreting broad-wavelength and high-precision JWST and ground-based high spectral resolution observations of individual objects alongside existing population studies with Spitzer and Hubble. I will specifically describe the application of detailed 3D GCMs including the impact of clouds, thermochemistry, and interior evolution on the circulation and emergent properties of hot and ultra-hot Jupiters. I will also discuss the utility of simplified analytic theory and modeling hierarchies to predict population-level climate trends and how novel physical processes including hydrogen dissociation and recombination, cloud-radiative feedback, and magnetism may be imprinted on these trends. I will detail how this understanding may evolve with a large sample of eclipse map and phase curve observations of hot gas giant exoplanets with JWST, and describe the need to develop improved unified modeling frameworks for the broad range of gas giant exoplanets.

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