Exoplanets & Exomoons

The Transient Outgassed Atmosphere of 55 Cancri e

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
August 14, 2023
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The Transient Outgassed Atmosphere of 55 Cancri e
55 Cancri e

The enigmatic nature of 55 Cancri e has defied theoretical explanation. Any explanation needs to account for the observed variability of its secondary eclipse depth, which is at times consistent with zero in the visible/optical range of wavelengths — a phenomenon that does not occur with its also variable infrared eclipses.

Yet, despite this variability its transit depth remains somewhat constant in time and is inconsistent with opaque material filling its Hill sphere. The current study explores the possibility of a thin, transient, secondary atmosphere on 55 Cancri e that is sourced by geochemical outgassing. Its transient nature derives from the inability of outgassing to be balanced by atmospheric escape. As the outgassed atmosphere escapes and is replenished, it rapidly adjusts to radiative equilibrium and the temperature fluctuations cause the infrared eclipse depths to vary.

Atmospheres of pure carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide produce sufficient Rayleigh scattering to explain the observed optical/visible eclipse depths, which vanish in the absence of an atmosphere and the presence of a dark rocky surface. Atmospheres of pure methane are ruled out because they produce insufficient Rayleigh scattering. Upcoming observations by the James Webb Space Telescope will potentially allow the atmospheric temperature and surface pressure, as well as the surface temperature, to be measured.

Kevin Heng

Comments: 7 pages, 4 figures, 1 table
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics (physics.ao-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:2308.06066 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2308.06066v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Kevin Heng
[v1] Fri, 11 Aug 2023 11:02:27 UTC (1,719 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) 🖖🏻