* Astronomy

Members Login
Post Info TOPIC: Exoplanet Atmospheres


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Exoplanet Biosignatures
Permalink  
 


Title: Exoplanet Biosignatures: Understanding Oxygen as a Biosignature in the Context of Its Environment
Author: Victoria S. Meadows, Christopher T. Reinhard, Giada N. Arney, Mary N. Parenteau, Edward W. Schwieterman, Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, Andrew P. Lincowski, Karl R. Stapelfeldt, Heike Rauer, Shiladitya DasSarma, Siddharth Hegde, Norio Narita, Russell Deitrick, Timothy W. Lyons, Nicholas Siegler, Jacob Lustig-Yaeger

Here we review how environmental context can be used to interpret whether O2 is a biosignature in extrasolar planetary observations. This paper builds on the overview of current biosignature research discussed in Schwieterman et al. (2017), and provides an in-depth, interdisciplinary example of biosignature identification and observation that serves as a basis for the development of the general framework for biosignature assessment described in Catling et al., (2017). O2 is a potentially strong biosignature that was originally thought to be an unambiguous indicator for life at high-abundance. We describe the coevolution of life with the early Earth's environment, and how the interplay of sources and sinks in the planetary environment may have resulted in suppression of O2 release into the atmosphere for several billion years, a false negative for biologically generated O2. False positives may also be possible, with recent research showing potential mechanisms in exoplanet environments that may generate relatively high abundances of atmospheric O2 without a biosphere being present. These studies suggest that planetary characteristics that may enhance false negatives should be considered when selecting targets for biosignature searches. Similarly our ability to interpret O2 observed in an exoplanetary atmosphere is also crucially dependent on environmental context to rule out false positive mechanisms. We describe future photometric, spectroscopic and time-dependent observations of O2 and the planetary environment that could increase our confidence that any observed O2 is a biosignature, and help discriminate it from potential false positives. By observing and understanding O2 in its planetary context we can increase our confidence in the remote detection of life, and provide a model for biosignature development for other proposed biosignatures.

Read more (4283kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
RE: Exoplanet Atmospheres
Permalink  
 


Volcanic hydrogen spurs chances of finding exoplanet life

Hunting for habitable exoplanets now may be easier: Cornell astronomers report that hydrogen pouring from volcanic sources on planets throughout the universe could improve the chances of locating life in the cosmos.
Read more



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Permalink  
 

Title: Carbon Dioxide in Exoplanetary Atmospheres: Rarely Dominant Compared to Carbon Monoxide and Water
Author: Kevin Heng, James R. Lyons

We present a comprehensive study of the abundance of carbon dioxide in exoplanetary atmospheres. We construct analytical models of systems in chemical equilibrium that include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, water, methane and acetylene and relate the equilibrium constants of the chemical reactions to temperature and pressure via the tabulated Gibbs free energies. We prove that such chemical systems may be described by a quintic equation for the mixing ratio of methane. By examining the abundances of these molecules across a broad range of temperatures (spanning equilibrium temperatures from 600 to 2500 K), pressures (via temperature-pressure profiles that explore albedo and opacity variations) and carbon-to-oxygen ratios (from 0.1 to 100), we conclude that carbon dioxide is subdominant compared to carbon monoxide and water. Atmospheric mixing does not alter this conclusion if carbon dioxide is subdominant everywhere in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide may attain comparable abundances if the metallicity is greatly enhanced, but this property is negated by temperatures above 1000 K. For hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, our generic result has the implication that retrieval studies need to set the subdominance of carbon dioxide as a prior of the calculation and not let its abundance completely roam free as a fitting parameter, because it directly affects the inferred value of the carbon-to-oxygen ratio and may produce unphysical conclusions. We discuss the relevance of these implications for the hot Jupiter WASP-12b and suggest that some of the previous results are chemically impossible. The relative abundance of carbon dioxide to acetylene is potentially a sensitive diagnostic of the carbon-to-oxygen ratio.

Read more (304kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Exoplanetary atmospheres
Permalink  
 


Title: Atmospheric Dynamics of Exoplanets
Author: Kevin Heng, Adam P. Showman

The characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres has come of age in the last decade, as astronomical techniques now allow for albedos, chemical abundances, temperature profiles and maps, rotation periods and even wind speeds to be measured. Atmospheric dynamics sets the background state of density, temperature and velocity that determines or influences the spectral and temporal appearance of an exoplanetary atmosphere. Hot exoplanets are most amenable to these characterization techniques; in the present review, we focus on highly-irradiated, large exoplanets (the "hot Jupiters"), as astronomical data begin to confront theoretical questions. We summarize the basic atmospheric quantities inferred from the astronomical observations. We review the state of the art by addressing a series of current questions and look towards the future by considering a separate set of exploratory questions. Attaining the next level of understanding will require a concerted effort of constructing multi-faceted, multi-wavelength datasets for benchmark objects. Understanding clouds presents a formidable obstacle, as they introduce degeneracies into the interpretation of spectra, yet their properties and existence are directly influenced by atmospheric dynamics. Confronting general circulation models with these multi-faceted, multi-wavelength datasets will help us understand these and other degeneracies. The coming decade will witness a decisive confrontation of theory and simulation by the next generation of astronomical data.

Read more (3600kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
RE: Exoplanet Atmospheres
Permalink  
 


Title: Water Clouds in Y Dwarfs and Exoplanets
Author: Caroline V. Morley, Mark S. Marley, Jonathan J. Fortney, Roxana Lupu, Didier Saumon, Tom Greene, Katharina Lodders

The formation of clouds affects brown dwarf and planetary atmospheres of nearly all effective temperatures. Iron and silicate condense in L dwarf atmospheres and dissipate at the L/T transition. Minor species such as sulfides and salts condense in mid-late T dwarfs. For brown dwarfs below Teff=450 K, water condenses in the upper atmosphere to form ice clouds. Currently over a dozen objects in this temperature range have been discovered, and few previous theoretical studies have addressed the effect of water clouds on brown dwarf or exoplanetary spectra. Here we present a new grid of models that include the effect of water cloud opacity. We find that they become optically thick in objects below Teff=350-375 K. Unlike refractory cloud materials, water ice particles are significantly non-gray absorbers; they predominantly scatter at optical wavelengths through J band and absorb in the infrared with prominent features, the strongest of which is at 2.8 microns. H2O, NH3, CH4, and H2 CIA are dominant opacity sources; less abundant species such as may also be detectable, including the alkalis, H2S, and PH3. PH3, which has been detected in Jupiter, is expected to have a strong signature in the mid-infrared at 4.3 microns in Y dwarfs around Teff=450 K; if disequilibrium chemistry increases the abundance of PH3, it may be detectable over a wider effective temperature range than models predict. We show results incorporating disequilibrium nitrogen and carbon chemistry and predict signatures of low gravity in planetary- mass objects. Lastly, we make predictions for the observability of Y dwarfs and planets with existing and future instruments including the James Webb Space Telescope and Gemini Planet Imager.

Read more (2675kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Permalink  
 

Title: Abiotic oxygen-dominated atmospheres on terrestrial habitable zone planets
Author: Robin Wordsworth, Raymond Pierrehumbert

Detection of life on other planets requires identification of biosignatures, i.e., observable planetary properties that robustly indicate the presence of a biosphere. One of the most widely accepted biosignatures for an Earth-like planet is an atmosphere where oxygen is a major constituent. Here we show that lifeless habitable zone terrestrial planets around any star type may develop oxygen-dominated atmospheres as a result of water photolysis, because the cold trap mechanism that protects H2O on Earth is ineffective when the atmospheric inventory of non-condensing gases (e.g., N2, Ar) is low. Hence the spectral features of O2 and O3 alone cannot be regarded as robust signs of extraterrestrial life.

Read more (36kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Exoplanetary Atmospheres
Permalink  
 


Title: Exoplanetary Atmospheres
Author: Nikku Madhusudhan (Cambridge), Heather Knutson (Caltech), Jonathan Fortney (UCSC), Travis Barman (U. Arizona)

The study of exoplanetary atmospheres is one of the most exciting and dynamic frontiers in astronomy. Over the past two decades ongoing surveys have revealed an astonishing diversity in the planetary masses, radii, temperatures, orbital parameters, and host stellar properties of exoplanetary systems. We are now moving into an era where we can begin to address fundamental questions concerning the diversity of exoplanetary compositions, atmospheric and interior processes, and formation histories, just as have been pursued for solar system planets over the past century. Exoplanetary atmospheres provide a direct means to address these questions via their observable spectral signatures. In the last decade, and particularly in the last five years, tremendous progress has been made in detecting atmospheric signatures of exoplanets through photometric and spectroscopic methods using a variety of space-borne and/or ground-based observational facilities. These observations are beginning to provide important constraints on a wide gamut of atmospheric properties, including pressure-temperature profiles, chemical compositions, energy circulation, presence of clouds, and non-equilibrium processes. The latest studies are also beginning to connect the inferred chemical compositions to exoplanetary formation conditions. In the present chapter, we review the most recent developments in the area of exoplanetary atmospheres. Our review covers advances in both observations and theory of exoplanetary atmospheres, and spans a broad range of exoplanet types (gas giants, ice giants, and super-Earths) and detection methods (transiting planets, direct imaging, and radial velocity). We close with a discussion of the bright prospects for future studies of exoplanetary atmospheres.

Read more (1477kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
RE: Exoplanet Atmospheres
Permalink  
 


Clouds extend the habitable zone of alien planets

Computer simulations of the influence clouds have on a planet's climate suggest there could be billions more potentially habitable planets in the Universe than previously thought.
According to the research even planets orbiting very close to a red dwarf star may retain surface water because of the way clouds affect the climate, suggesting there is a bigger orbital zone around such stars where life could exist.

Read more



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Permalink  
 

Title: A simple, quantitative method to infer the minimum atmospheric height of small exoplanets
Authors: David M. Kipping, David S. Spiegel, Dimitar D. Sasselov

Amongst the many hundreds of transiting planet candidates discovered by the Kepler Mission, one finds a large number of candidates with sizes between that of the Earth and Neptune. The composition of these worlds is not immediately obvious with no Solar System analogue to draw upon and there exists some ambiguity as to whether a given candidate is a rocky Super-Earth or a gas-enveloped Mini-Neptune. The potential scientific value and observability of the atmospheres of these two classes of worlds varies significantly and given the sheer number of candidates in this size-range, there is evidently a need for a quick, simple metric to rank whether the planets have an extended atmosphere or not. In this work, we propose a way to calculate the 'minimum atmospheric height' (R_MAH) using only a planet's radius and mass as inputs. We assume and exploit the boundary condition that the bulk composition of a solid/liquid Super-Earth cannot be composed of a material lighter than that of water. Mass-radius loci above a pure-water composition planet correspond to R_MAH>0. The statistical confidence of a planet maintaining an extended atmosphere can be therefore easily calculated to provide a simple ranking of target planets for follow-up observations. We also discuss how this metric can be useful in the interpretation of the spectra of observed planetary atmospheres.

Read more (182kb, PDF)



__________________


L

Posts: 129912
Date:
Permalink  
 

Title: Clouds and Hazes in Exoplanet Atmospheres
Authors: Mark S. Marley, Andrew S. Ackerman, Jeffrey N. Cuzzi, Daniel Kitzmann

Clouds and hazes are commonplace in the atmospheres of solar system planets and are likely ubiquitous in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets as well. Clouds affect every aspect of a planetary atmosphere, from the transport of radiation, to atmospheric chemistry, to dynamics and they influence - if not control - aspects such as surface temperature and habitability. In this review we aim to provide an introduction to the role and properties of clouds in exoplanetary atmospheres. We consider the role clouds play in influencing the spectra of planets as well as their habitability and detectability. We briefly summarize how clouds are treated in terrestrial climate models and consider the far simpler approaches that have been taken so far to model exoplanet clouds, the evidence for which we also review. Since clouds play a major role in the atmospheres of certain classes of brown dwarfs we briefly discuss brown dwarf cloud modelling as well. We also review how the scattering and extinction efficiencies of cloud particles may be approximated in certain limiting cases of small and large particles in order to facilitate physical understanding. Since clouds play such important roles in planetary atmospheres, cloud modelling may well prove to be the limiting factor in our ability to interpret future observations of extrasolar planets.

Read more (1568kb, PDF)



__________________
1 2  >  Last»  | Page of 2  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.



Create your own FREE Forum
Report Abuse
Powered by ActiveBoard