Space Weather & Heliophysics

Stellar Flares Versus Luminosity: XUV-induced Atmospheric Escape And Planetary Habitability

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 9, 2020
Filed under
Stellar Flares Versus Luminosity: XUV-induced Atmospheric Escape And Planetary Habitability
Stellar flare

Space weather plays an important role in the evolution of planetary atmospheres. Observations have shown that stellar flares emit energy in a wide energy range (10^30-10^38 ergs), a fraction of which lies in X-rays and extreme ultraviolet (XUV).

These flares heat the upper atmosphere of a planet, leading to increased escape rates, and can result in atmospheric erosion over a period of time. Observations also suggest that primordial terrestrial planets can accrete voluminous H/He envelopes. Stellar radiation can erode these protoatmospheres over time, and the extent of this erosion has implications for the planet’s habitability. We use the energy-limited equation to calculate hydrodynamic escape rates from these protoatmospheres irradiated by XUV stellar flares and luminosity.

We use the Flare-Frequency Distribution of 492 FGKM stars observed with TESS to estimate atmospheric loss in Habitable Zone planets. We find that for most stars, luminosity-induced escape is the main loss mechanism, with a minor contribution from flares. However, flares dominate the loss mechanism of ∼20\% M4-M10 stars. M0-M4 stars are most likely to completely erode both their proto- and secondary atmospheres, and M4-M10 are least likely to erode secondary atmospheres. We discuss the implications of these results on planetary habitability.

Dimitra Atri, Shane R. Carberry Mogan
Comments: Accepted in MNRAS Letters
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics (
Cite as: arXiv:2009.04310 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2009.04310v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Dimitra Atri
[v1] Wed, 9 Sep 2020 14:07:28 UTC (1,785 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) 🖖🏻