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          Institute: MPI für Astronomie     Collection: Publikationen_mpia     Display Documents

ID: 693744.0, MPI für Astronomie / Publikationen_mpia
A framework for characterizing the atmospheres of low-mass low-density transiting planets
Authors:Fortney, Jonathan J.; Mordasini, Christoph; Nettelmann, Nadine; Kempton, Eliza M.-R.; Greene, Thomas P.; Zahnle, Kevin
Date of Publication (YYYY-MM-DD):2013
Title of Journal:The Astrophysical Journal
Issue / Number:1
Start Page:id. 80 (3 pp)
Review Status:Internal review
Audience:Experts Only
Abstract / Description:We perform modeling investigations to aid in understanding the atmospheres and composition of small planets of ~2-4 Earth radii, which are now known to be common in our Galaxy. GJ 1214b is a well-studied example whose atmospheric transmission spectrum has been observed by many investigators. Here we take a step back from GJ 1214b to investigate the role that planetary mass, composition, and temperature play in impacting the transmission spectra of these low-mass low-density (LMLD) planets. Under the assumption that these planets accrete modest hydrogen-dominated atmospheres and planetesimals, we use population synthesis models to show that predicted metal enrichments of the H/He envelope are high, with metal mass fraction Z env values commonly 0.6-0.9, or ~100-400+ times solar. The high mean molecular weight of such atmospheres (μ ≈ 5-12) would naturally help to flatten the transmission spectrum of most LMLD planets. The high metal abundance would also provide significant condensible material for cloud formation. It is known that the H/He abundance in Uranus and Neptune decreases with depth, and we show that atmospheric evaporation of LMLD planets could expose atmospheric layers with gradually higher Z env. However, values of Z env close to solar composition can also arise, so diversity should be expected. Photochemically produced hazes, potentially due to methane photolysis, are another possibility for obscuring transmission spectra. Such hazes may not form above T eq of ~800-1100 K, which is testable if such warm, otherwise low mean molecular weight atmospheres are stable against atmospheric evaporation. We find that available transmission data are consistent with relatively high mean molecular weight atmospheres for GJ 1214b and "warm Neptune" GJ 436b. We examine future prospects for characterizing GJ 1214b with Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Free Keywords:planets and satellites: atmospheres; planets and satellites: composition; planets and satellites: formation
External Publication Status:published
Document Type:Article
Communicated by:N. N.
Affiliations:MPI für Astronomie
Identifiers:ISSN:0004-637X %] 80 [ID No:1]
URL:http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2013ApJ...775...80F [ID No:2]
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