The impact of spectral line wing cut-off: recommended standard method with application to MAESTRO opacity data base

Ehsan (Sam) Gharib-Nezhad*, Natasha E Batalha, Katy Chubb, Richard Freedman, Iouli E Gordon, Robert R Gamache, Robert J Hargreaves, Nikole K Lewis, Jonathan Tennyson, Sergei N Yurchenko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When computing cross-sections from a line list, the result depends not only on the line strength, but also the line shape, pressure-broadening parameters, and line wing cut-off (i.e. the maximum distance calculated from each line centre). Pressure-broadening can be described using the Lorentz line shape, but it is known to not represent the true absorption in the far wings. Both theory and experiment have shown that far from the line centre, non-Lorentzian behaviour controls the shape of the wings and the Lorentz line shape fails to accurately characterize the absorption, leading to an underestimation or overestimation of the opacity continuum depending on the molecular species involved. The line wing cut-off is an often overlooked parameter when calculating absorption cross-sections, but can have a significant effect on the appearance of the spectrum since it dictates the extent of the line wing that contributes to the calculation either side of every line centre. Therefore, when used to analyse exoplanet and brown dwarf spectra, an inaccurate choice for the line wing cut-off can result in errors in the opacity continuum, which propagate into the modelled transit spectra, and ultimately impact/bias the interpretation of observational spectra, and the derived composition and thermal structure. Here, we examine the different methods commonly utilized to calculate the wing cut-off and propose a standard practice procedure (i.e. absolute value of 25 cm−1 for P ≤ 200 bar and 100 cm−1 for P > 200 bar) to generate molecular opacities which will be used by the open-access MAESTRO (Molecules and Atoms in Exoplanet Science: Tools and Resources for Opacities) data base. The pressing need for new measurements and theoretical studies of the far-wings is highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberrzad058
Pages (from-to)44-55
Number of pages12
JournalRAS Techniques and Instruments
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2024


  • Wing cut-off
  • Data methods
  • Line profile
  • Voigt profile
  • Lorentz profile
  • Absorption cross section


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