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Title: BIOSIGNATURE GASES IN H{sub 2}-DOMINATED ATMOSPHERES ON ROCKY EXOPLANETS

Super-Earth exoplanets are being discovered with increasing frequency and some will be able to retain stable H{sub 2}-dominated atmospheres. We study biosignature gases on exoplanets with thin H{sub 2} atmospheres and habitable surface temperatures, using a model atmosphere with photochemistry and a biomass estimate framework for evaluating the plausibility of a range of biosignature gas candidates. We find that photochemically produced H atoms are the most abundant reactive species in H{sub 2} atmospheres. In atmospheres with high CO{sub 2} levels, atomic O is the major destructive species for some molecules. In Sun-Earth-like UV radiation environments, H (and in some cases O) will rapidly destroy nearly all biosignature gases of interest. The lower UV fluxes from UV-quiet M stars would produce a lower concentration of H (or O) for the same scenario, enabling some biosignature gases to accumulate. The favorability of low-UV radiation environments to accumulate detectable biosignature gases in an H{sub 2} atmosphere is closely analogous to the case of oxidized atmospheres, where photochemically produced OH is the major destructive species. Most potential biosignature gases, such as dimethylsulfide and CH{sub 3}Cl, are therefore more favorable in low-UV, as compared with solar-like UV, environments. A few promising biosignature gas candidates, includingmore » NH{sub 3} and N{sub 2}O, are favorable even in solar-like UV environments, as these gases are destroyed directly by photolysis and not by H (or O). A more subtle finding is that most gases produced by life that are fully hydrogenated forms of an element, such as CH{sub 4} and H{sub 2}S, are not effective signs of life in an H{sub 2}-rich atmosphere because the dominant atmospheric chemistry will generate such gases abiologically, through photochemistry or geochemistry. Suitable biosignature gases in H{sub 2}-rich atmospheres for super-Earth exoplanets transiting M stars could potentially be detected in transmission spectra with the James Webb Space Telescope.« less
Authors:
; ;  [1]
  1. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22270617
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 777; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; AMMONIA; ASTRONOMY; ASTROPHYSICS; BIOMASS; CARBON DIOXIDE; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; CONCENTRATION RATIO; COSMOCHEMISTRY; HYDROGEN; HYDROGEN SULFIDES; METHANE; METHYL CHLORIDE; NITROUS OXIDE; PHOTOCHEMISTRY; PHOTOLYSIS; PLANETS; SATELLITE ATMOSPHERES; SUN; TELESCOPES; ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION