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Title: Photochemistry in terrestrial exoplanet atmospheres. III. Photochemistry and thermochemistry in thick atmospheres on super Earths and mini Neptunes

Some super Earths and mini Neptunes will likely have thick atmospheres that are not H{sub 2}-dominated. We have developed a photochemistry-thermochemistry kinetic-transport model for exploring the compositions of thick atmospheres on super Earths and mini Neptunes, applicable for both H{sub 2}-dominated atmospheres and non-H{sub 2}-dominated atmospheres. Using this model to study thick atmospheres for wide ranges of temperatures and elemental abundances, we classify them into hydrogen-rich atmospheres, water-rich atmospheres, oxygen-rich atmospheres, and hydrocarbon-rich atmospheres. We find that carbon has to be in the form of CO{sub 2} rather than CH{sub 4} or CO in a H{sub 2}-depleted water-dominated thick atmosphere and that the preferred loss of light elements from an oxygen-poor carbon-rich atmosphere leads to the formation of unsaturated hydrocarbons (C{sub 2}H{sub 2} and C{sub 2}H{sub 4}). We apply our self-consistent atmosphere models to compute spectra and diagnostic features for known transiting low-mass exoplanets GJ 1214 b, HD 97658 b, and 55 Cnc e. For GJ 1214 b, we find that (1) C{sub 2}H{sub 2} features at 1.0 and 1.5 μm in transmission and C{sub 2}H{sub 2} and C{sub 2}H{sub 4} features at 9-14 μm in thermal emission are diagnostic for hydrocarbon-rich atmospheres; (2) a detection of water-vapor features andmore » a confirmation of the nonexistence of methane features would provide sufficient evidence for a water-dominated atmosphere. In general, our simulations show that chemical stability has to be taken into account when interpreting the spectrum of a super Earth/mini Neptune. Water-dominated atmospheres only exist for carbon to oxygen ratios much lower than the solar ratio, suggesting that this kind of atmospheres could be rare.« less
Authors:
;  [1]
  1. Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22351470
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 784; 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; ABUNDANCE; CARBON DIOXIDE; CARBON MONOXIDE; ETHYLENE; HYDROGEN; METHANE; NEPTUNE PLANET; OXYGEN; PHOTOCHEMISTRY; RADIANT HEAT TRANSFER; SATELLITE ATMOSPHERES; SATELLITES; SIMULATION; SPECTRA; THERMOCHEMICAL PROCESSES; TRANSPORT THEORY; WATER; WATER VAPOR