Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Transit Ly-α Signatures Of Terrestrial Planets In The Habitable Zones Of M Dwarfs

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 6, 2019
Filed under
Transit Ly-α Signatures Of Terrestrial Planets In The Habitable Zones Of M Dwarfs
Atomic corona surrounding GJ 436b simulated with the DSMC code. Only particles with coordinates −10<sup>8</sup> ≤ z ≤ 10<sup>8</sup> m are shown. The black dot in the center shows the planet, the white area around the planet is the inner atmosphere modeled with a hydrodynamic code. The star is on the right. Blue dots are the neutral hydrogen atoms, which contribute to the Lyα absorp- tion. Red dots are the stellar wind protons, and green dots are the ionized hydrogen atoms of planetary origin. Radiation pressure is included.

We modeled the transit signatures in the Lya line of a putative Earth-sized planet orbiting in the HZ of the M dwarf GJ436.

We estimated the transit depth in the Lya line for an exo-Earth with three types of atmospheres: a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, a nitrogen-dominated atmosphere, and a nitrogen-dominated atmosphere with an amount of hydrogen equal to that of the Earth.

We calculated the in-transit absorption they would produce in the Lya line. We applied it to the out-of-transit Lya observations of GJ 436 obtained by the HST and compared the calculated in-transit absorption with observational uncertainties to determine if it would be detectable. To validate the model, we also used our method to simulate the deep absorption signature observed during the transit of GJ 436b and showed that our model is capable of reproducing the observations. We used a DSMC code to model the planetary exospheres.

The code includes several species and traces neutral particles and ions. At the lower boundary of the DSMC model we assumed an atmosphere density, temperature, and velocity obtained with a hydrodynamic model for the lower atmosphere. We showed that for a small rocky Earth-like planet orbiting in the HZ of GJ436 only the hydrogen-dominated atmosphere is marginally detectable with the STIS/HST.

Neither a pure nitrogen atmosphere nor a nitrogen-dominated atmosphere with an Earth-like hydrogen concentration in the upper atmosphere are detectable. We also showed that the Lya observations of GJ436b can be reproduced reasonably well assuming a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, both in the blue and red wings of the Lya line, which indicates that warm Neptune-like planets are a suitable target for Lya observations. Terrestrial planets can be observed in the Lya line if they orbit very nearby stars, or if several observational visits are available.

K.G. Kislyakova, M. Holmström, P. Odert, H. Lammer, N.V. Erkaev, M.L. Khodachenko, I.F. Shaikhislamov, E. Dorfi, M. Güdel
(Submitted on 6 Mar 2019)

Comments: 17 pages, 12 figures, accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1903.02303 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1903.02303v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Kristina Kislyakova
[v1] Wed, 6 Mar 2019 10:51:19 UTC (6,796 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) 🖖🏻