Cloud Formation in Carbon- and Oxygen-rich Environment

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 6, 2016
Filed under
Cloud Formation in Carbon- and Oxygen-rich Environment

Recent observations indicate potentially carbon-rich exoplanet atmospheres. Spectral fitting methods for brown dwarfs and exoplanets have invoked the C/O ratio as additional parameter but carbon-rich cloud formation modeling is a challenge for the models applied.

The determination of the habitable zone for exoplanets requires the treatment of cloud formation in chemically different regimes. Disk models show that carbon-rich or near-carbon-rich niches may emerge and cool carbon planets may trace these particular stages of planetary evolution. We extend our kinetic cloud formation model by including carbon seed formation and the formation of C[s], TiC[s], SiC[s], KCl[s], and MgS[s] by gas-surface reactions. The seed formation efficiency is lower in carbon-rich atmospheres than in oxygen-rich gases due to carbon being a very effective growth species. The consequence is that less particles will make up a cloud for C/O_0>1.

The cloud particles will be smaller in size than in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. An increasing initial C/O ratio does not revert this trend because a much greater abundance of condensible gas species exists in a rich carbon environment. Cloud particles are generally made of a mix of materials: carbon dominates if C/O_0>1 and silicates dominate if C/O_0<1. 80-90% carbon is reached only in extreme cases where C/O_0=3.0 or 10.0. Carbon-rich atmospheres would form clouds that are made of particles of height-dependent mixed compositions, sizes and numbers. The remaining gas-phase is far less depleted than in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Typical tracer molecules are HCN and C2H2 in combination with a featureless, smooth continuum due to a carbonaceous cloud cover, unless the cloud particles become crystalline. Dust in brown dwarfs and extra-solar planets V. Cloud formation in carbon- and oxygen-rich environment

Ch. Helling, D. Tootill, P. Woitke, G. Lee
(Submitted on 6 Dec 2016)

Comments: 14 pages, accepted for publication in A&A
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1612.01863 [astro-ph.SR]
(or arXiv:1612.01863v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Christiane Helling
[v1] Tue, 6 Dec 2016 15:31:27 GMT (3477kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) πŸ––πŸ»