Exoplanets & Exomoons

Atmospheric Compositions And Observability Of Nitrogen Dominated Ultra-short Period Super-Earths

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 11, 2020
Filed under
Atmospheric Compositions And Observability Of Nitrogen Dominated Ultra-short Period Super-Earths
Super Earth

We explore the chemistry and observability of nitrogen dominated atmospheres for ultra-short-period super-Earths. We base the assumption, that super-Earths could have nitrogen filled atmospheres, on observations of 55 Cnc e that favour a scenario with a high-mean-molecular-weight atmosphere.

We take Titan’s elemental budget as our starting point and using chemical kinetics compute a large range of possible compositions for a hot super-Earth. We use analytical temperature profiles and explore a parameter space spanning orders of magnitude in C/O \& N/O ratios, while always keeping nitrogen the dominant component.

We generate synthetic transmission and emission spectra and assess their potential observability with the future James Webb Space Telescope and ARIEL. Our results suggest that HCN is a strong indicator of a high C/O ratio, which is similar to what is found for H-dominated atmospheres. We find that these worlds are likely to possess C/O > 1.0, and that HCN, CN, CO should be the primary molecules to be searched for in thermal emission. For lower temperatures (T < 1500 K), we additionally find NH3 in high N/O ratio cases, and C2H4, CH4 in low N/O ratio cases to be strong absorbers. Depletion of hydrogen in such atmospheres would make CN, CO and NO exceptionally prominent molecules to look for in the 0.6 - 5.0 μm range. Our models show that the upcoming JWST and ARIEL missions will be able to distinguish atmospheric compositions of ultra-short period super-Earths with unprecedented confidence. Mantas Zilinskas, Yamila Miguel, Paul Molliére, Shang-Min Tsai
(Submitted on 11 Mar 2020)

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2003.05354 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2003.05354v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Mantas Zilinskas
[v1] Wed, 11 Mar 2020 15:20:33 UTC (8,356 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) 🖖🏻