Marginalising instrument systematics in HST WFC3 transit lightcurves

H. R. Wakeford, D. K. Sing, T. Evans, D. Deming, A. Mandell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
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Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) infrared observations at 1.1-1.7$\mu$m probe primarily the H$_2$O absorption band at 1.4$\mu$m, and has provided low resolution transmission spectra for a wide range of exoplanets. We present the application of marginalisation based on Gibson (2014) to analyse exoplanet transit lightcurves obtained from HST WFC3, to better determine important transit parameters such as R$_p$/R$_*$, important for accurate detections of H$_2$O. We approximate the evidence, often referred to as the marginal likelihood, for a grid of systematic models using the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). We then calculate the evidence-based weight assigned to each systematic model and use the information from all tested models to calculate the final marginalised transit parameters for both the band-integrated, and spectroscopic lightcurves to construct the transmission spectrum. We find that a majority of the highest weight models contain a correction for a linear trend in time, as well as corrections related to HST orbital phase. We additionally test the dependence on the shift in spectral wavelength position over the course of the observations and find that spectroscopic wavelength shifts $\delta_\lambda(\lambda)$, best describe the associated systematic in the spectroscopic lightcurves for most targets, while fast scan rate observations of bright targets require an additional level of processing to produce a robust transmission spectrum. The use of marginalisation allows for transparent interpretation and understanding of the instrument and the impact of each systematic evaluated statistically for each dataset, expanding the ability to make true and comprehensive comparisons between exoplanet atmospheres.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2016


  • methods: data analysis
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • techniques: spectroscopic


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