Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Chemistry of Temperate Super-Earth and Mini-Neptune Atmospheric Hazes from Laboratory Experiments

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 30, 2020
Filed under
Chemistry of Temperate Super-Earth and Mini-Neptune Atmospheric Hazes from Laboratory Experiments
Generalized schematic of PHAZER chamber experimental apparatus used to produce the exoplanet haze analogues. Specific gas mixtures, temperature, and energy source differs between experimental conditions.

Very little experimental work has been done to explore the properties of photochemical hazes formed in atmospheres with very different compositions or temperatures than that of the outer solar system or of early Earth.

With extrasolar planet discoveries now numbering thousands, this untapped phase space merits exploration. This study presents measured chemical properties of haze particles produced in laboratory analogues of exoplanet atmospheres. We used very high resolution mass spectrometry to measure the chemical components of solid particles produced in atmospheric chamber experiments.

Many complex molecular species with general chemical formulas CwHxNyOz were detected. We detect molecular formulas of prebiotic interest in the data, including those for the monosaccharide glyceraldehyde, a variety of amino acids and nucleotide bases, and several sugar derivatives.

Additionally, the experimental exoplanetary haze analogues exhibit diverse solubility characteristics, which provide insight into the possibility of further chemical or physical alteration of photochemical hazes in super-Earth and mini-Neptune atmospheres. These exoplanet analogue particles can help us better understand chemical atmospheric processes and suggest a possible source of in situ atmospheric prebiotic chemistry on distant worlds.

Sarah E. Moran, Sarah M. Hörst, Véronique Vuitton, Chao He, Nikole K. Lewis, Laurène Flandinet, Julianne I. Moses, Nicole North, François-Régis Orthous-Daunay, Joshua Sebree, Cédric Wolters, Eliza M.-R. Kempton, Mark S. Marley, Caroline V. Morley, Jeff A. Valenti
Comments: 22 pages, 8 figures, 9 tables, accepted for publication in the Planetary Science Journal
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:2004.13794 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2004.13794v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sarah Moran
[v1] Tue, 28 Apr 2020 20:01:37 UTC (5,967 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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) 🖖🏻