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Title: COMPOSITIONAL DIVERSITY IN THE ATMOSPHERES OF HOT NEPTUNES, WITH APPLICATION TO GJ 436b

Neptune-sized extrasolar planets that orbit relatively close to their host stars—often called {sup h}ot Neptunes{sup —}are common within the known population of exoplanets and planetary candidates. Similar to our own Uranus and Neptune, inefficient accretion of nebular gas is expected produce hot Neptunes whose masses are dominated by elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. At high atmospheric metallicities of 10-10,000 times solar, hot Neptunes will exhibit an interesting continuum of atmospheric compositions, ranging from more Neptune-like, H{sub 2}-dominated atmospheres to more Venus-like, CO{sub 2}-dominated atmospheres. We explore the predicted equilibrium and disequilibrium chemistry of generic hot Neptunes and find that the atmospheric composition varies strongly as a function of temperature and bulk atmospheric properties such as metallicity and the C/O ratio. Relatively exotic H{sub 2}O, CO, CO{sub 2}, and even O{sub 2}-dominated atmospheres are possible for hot Neptunes. We apply our models to the case of GJ 436b, where we find that a CO-rich, CH{sub 4}-poor atmosphere can be a natural consequence of a very high atmospheric metallicity. From comparisons of our results with Spitzer eclipse data for GJ 436b, we conclude that although the spectral fit from the high-metallicity forward models is not quite as good as the bestmore » fit obtained from pure retrieval methods, the atmospheric composition predicted by these forward models is more physically and chemically plausible in terms of the relative abundance of major constituents. High-metallicity atmospheres (orders of magnitude in excess of solar) should therefore be considered as a possibility for GJ 436b and other hot Neptunes.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ; ;  [5] ;  [6] ;  [7] ;  [8]
  1. Space Science Institute, 4750 Walnut Street, Suite 205, Boulder, CO 80301 (United States)
  2. Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125 (United States)
  3. Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO 80302 (United States)
  4. Rice University, Houston, TX 77005-1892 (United States)
  5. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 (United States)
  6. Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ 86001 (United States)
  7. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637 (United States)
  8. Department of Physics and Department of Astronomy, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8101 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22270674
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 777; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ASTRONOMY; ASTROPHYSICS; CARBON; CARBON DIOXIDE; CARBON MONOXIDE; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; COSMOCHEMISTRY; ECLIPSE; HELIUM; HYDROGEN; METHANE; ORBITS; OXYGEN; SATELLITE ATMOSPHERES; TEMPERATURE DEPENDENCE; WATER