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Title: Atmospheric escape from the TRAPPIST-1 planets and implications for habitability

Abstract

Here, the presence of an atmosphere over sufficiently long timescales is widely perceived as one of the most prominent criteria associated with planetary surface habitability. We address the crucial question of whether the seven Earth-sized planets transiting the recently discovered ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 are capable of retaining their atmospheres. To this effect, we carry out numerical simulations to characterize the stellar wind of TRAPPIST-1 and the atmospheric ion escape rates for all of the seven planets. We also estimate the escape rates analytically and demonstrate that they are in good agreement with the numerical results. We conclude that the outer planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system are capable of retaining their atmospheres over billion-year timescales. The consequences arising from our results are also explored in the context of abiogenesis, biodiversity, and searches for future exoplanets. In light of the many unknowns and assumptions involved, we recommend that these conclusions must be interpreted with due caution.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [6]
  1. Princeton Univ., Princeton, NJ (United States); Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
  2. Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab., Palo Alto, CA (United States)
  3. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA (United States); Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA (United States)
  4. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, MD (United States)
  5. Univ. of California, Los Angeles, CA (United States)
  6. Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. (PPPL), Princeton, NJ (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1420766
Grant/Contract Number:  
NNX16AK22G; NNG04EA00C
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 115; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424
Publisher:
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC (United States)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS; exoplanets; stellar wind; atmospheric escape; astrobiology

Citation Formats

Dong, Chuanfei, Jin, Meng, Lingam, Manasvi, Airapetian, Vladimir S., Ma, Yingjuan, and van der Holst, Bart. Atmospheric escape from the TRAPPIST-1 planets and implications for habitability. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708010115.
Dong, Chuanfei, Jin, Meng, Lingam, Manasvi, Airapetian, Vladimir S., Ma, Yingjuan, & van der Holst, Bart. Atmospheric escape from the TRAPPIST-1 planets and implications for habitability. United States. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708010115
Dong, Chuanfei, Jin, Meng, Lingam, Manasvi, Airapetian, Vladimir S., Ma, Yingjuan, and van der Holst, Bart. Tue . "Atmospheric escape from the TRAPPIST-1 planets and implications for habitability". United States. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708010115. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1420766.
@article{osti_1420766,
title = {Atmospheric escape from the TRAPPIST-1 planets and implications for habitability},
author = {Dong, Chuanfei and Jin, Meng and Lingam, Manasvi and Airapetian, Vladimir S. and Ma, Yingjuan and van der Holst, Bart},
abstractNote = {Here, the presence of an atmosphere over sufficiently long timescales is widely perceived as one of the most prominent criteria associated with planetary surface habitability. We address the crucial question of whether the seven Earth-sized planets transiting the recently discovered ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 are capable of retaining their atmospheres. To this effect, we carry out numerical simulations to characterize the stellar wind of TRAPPIST-1 and the atmospheric ion escape rates for all of the seven planets. We also estimate the escape rates analytically and demonstrate that they are in good agreement with the numerical results. We conclude that the outer planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system are capable of retaining their atmospheres over billion-year timescales. The consequences arising from our results are also explored in the context of abiogenesis, biodiversity, and searches for future exoplanets. In light of the many unknowns and assumptions involved, we recommend that these conclusions must be interpreted with due caution.},
doi = {10.1073/pnas.1708010115},
journal = {Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America},
number = 2,
volume = 115,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {1}
}

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Cited by: 20 works
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Figures / Tables:

Figure 1 Figure 1: The steady state stellar wind of TRAPPIST-1. (a) The 3D stellar wind configuration with selected magnetic field lines. The background contour shows stellar wind speed at the equatorial plane (z=0). The blue isosurface represents the critical surface beyond which the stellar wind becomes super-magnetosonic. The black solid linesmore » represent the orbits of seven planets TRAPPIST-1b to TRAPPIST-1h. (b) The equatorial plane z=0 showing the stellar wind dynamic pressure normalized by the solar wind dynamic pressure at 1 AU. The dashed line shows the critical surface location. (c) The equatorial plane z=0 showing the stellar wind density normalized by the solar wind density at 1 AU. (d)-(f) A zoom-in view of the equatorial plane at z=0 near TRAPPIST-1 depicting the stellar wind velocity, normalized dynamic pressure, and density, respectively. Note that the color bar for (e) is the same as (b), and that of (f) is identical to (c).« less

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