Laura Kreidberg
Graduate Student, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Location: ERC 548

Scientific Advisor: Jacob L. Bean

Publications: ADS | arXiv

Research Fields:
My research focuses on intensive characterization of exoplanet atmospheres with the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

Member of Research Groups:

Ph.D. Thesis Defense
Defense date: May 24, 2016
Ph.D. Thesis: "Snapshots of Faraway Places: Intensive Atmosphere Characterization of Extrasolar Planets"

Scientific Advisor: Jacob L. Bean

Ph.D. Committee members: Daniel Fabrycky, Hsiao-Wen Chen, and Andrey Kravstov

"Laura conducted the most ambitious observational programs ever on the topic of exoplanet atmospheres for her dissertation. She used large investments of Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescope time to measure exoplanet atmospheric compositions, thermal structures, energy budgets, and dynamics to understand planetary origins and physics. The papers resulting from her work are the new benchmarks in the field, and provide a foundation for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets with future facilities."
- Jacob L. Bean, Ph.D. advisor

Thesis Abstract: Exoplanet atmosphere characterization has the potential to reveal the origins, nature, and even habitability of distant worlds. This thesis represents a step towards realizing that potential for a diverse group of four extrasolar planets. Here, I present the results of intensive observational campaigns with the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to study the atmospheres of the super-Earth GJ 1214b and the hot Jupiters WASP-43b, WASP-12b, and WASP-103b.

I measured an unprecedentedly precise near-infrared transmission spectrum for GJ 1214b that definitively reveals the presence of clouds in the planet's atmosphere. For WASP-43b and WASP-12b, I also measured very precise spectra that exhibit water features at high confidence (>7 sigma). The retrieved water abundance for WASP-43b extends the well-known Solar System trend of decreasing atmospheric metallicity with increasing planet mass. The detection of water for WASP-12b marks the first spectroscopic identification of a molecule in the planet's atmosphere and implies that it has solar composition, ruling out carbon-to-oxygen ratios greater than unity. For WASP-103b, I use the new technique of phase-resolved spectroscopy to determine the planet's temperature structure, dynamics, and energy budget. In addition to these observations, I also present the BATMAN code, an open-source Python package for fast and flexible modeling of transit light curves.

Taken together, these results provide a foundation for comparative planetology beyond the Solar System and the investigation of Earth-like, potentially habitable planets with future observing facilities.

Department Committees
Past Department Committees:
  • Brinson Lectureship: 2014 - 2015
  • Undergraduate Committee: 2013 - 2014