Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 October 2009
The extrasolar planets known to date have masses and orbital periods spanning a large range. Those for which we have definite knowledge about physical composition have much more restricted properties: they are either transiting planets with near-Jovian masses and orbital periods of a few days, or (as in a couple of recent discoveries) they are distant low-mass companions to objects that are themselves low-mass and young. Here we will concentrate on the former group of objects, and try to summarize what is known and conjectured concerning their atmospheres based on observations of their transits. By way of motivation and illustration of the ultimate possibilities available to transit observations, we begin by discussing recent observations of the transit of Venus in June 2004.