Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Stellar Activity Effects on Moist Habitable Terrestrial Atmospheres Around M dwarfs

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
Extrasolar planet
February 12, 2019
Filed under
Stellar Activity Effects on Moist Habitable Terrestrial Atmospheres Around M dwarfs

Transit spectroscopy of terrestrial planets around nearby M dwarfs is a primary goal of space missions in coming decades. 3-D climate modeling has shown that slow-synchronous rotating terrestrial planets may develop thick clouds at the substellar point, increasing the albedo.

For M dwarfs with Teff > 3000 K, such planets at the inner habitable zone (IHZ) have been shown to retain moist greenhouse conditions, with enhanced stratospheric water vapor (fH2O > 1E-3) and low Earth-like surface temperatures. However, M dwarfs also possess strong UV activity, which may effectively photolyze stratospheric H2O. Prior modeling efforts have not included the impact of high stellar UV activity on the H2O. Here, we employ a 1-D photochemical model with varied stellar UV, to assess whether H2O destruction driven by high stellar UV would affect its detectability in transmission spectroscopy. Temperature and water vapor profiles are taken from published 3-D climate model simulations for an IHZ Earth-sized planet around a 3300 K M dwarf with an N2-H2O atmosphere; they serve as self-consistent input profiles for the 1-D model. We explore additional chemical complexity within the 1-D model by introducing other species into the atmosphere.

We find that as long as the atmosphere is well-mixed up to 1 mbar, UV activity appears to not impact detectability of H2O in the transmission spectrum. The strongest H2O features occur in the JWST MIRI instrument wavelength range and are comparable to the estimated systematic noise floor of ~50 ppm.

Mahmuda Afrin Badhan, Eric T. Wolf, Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, Giada Arney, Eliza M.-R. Kempton, Drake Deming, Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman
(Submitted on 11 Feb 2019)

Comments: Astrophysical Journal in review; 11 pages; 4 figures; 2 tables
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1902.04086 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1902.04086v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Mahmuda Afrin Badhan
[v1] Mon, 11 Feb 2019 19:00:02 UTC (1,018 KB)

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) 🖖🏻