Outstanding Challenges of Exoplanet Atmospheric Retrievals

Barstow, Joanna K. and Heng, Kevin (2020). Outstanding Challenges of Exoplanet Atmospheric Retrievals. Space Science Reviews, 216(5), article no. 82.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11214-020-00666-x


Spectral retrieval has long been a powerful tool for interpreting planetary remote sensing observations. Flexible, parameterised, agnostic models are coupled with inversion algorithms in order to infer atmospheric properties directly from observations, with minimal reliance on physical assumptions. This approach, originally developed for application to Earth satellite data and subsequently observations of other Solar System planets, has been recently and successfully applied to transit, eclipse and phase curve spectra of transiting exoplanets. In this review, we present the current state-of-the-art in terms of our ability to accurately retrieve information about atmospheric chemistry, temperature, clouds and spatial variability; we discuss the limitations of this, both in the available data and modelling strategies used; and we recommend approaches for future improvement.

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