Inflating a Tremendous-Puff Planet – Sky & Telescope

March 5, 2019 - Comment

Tremendous-puffs — fluffy planets noticed to have abnormally low densities — are an issue. In keeping with theoretical fashions, they shouldn’t exist — and but we’ve already detected half a dozen of them with Kepler alone. A brand new research explores what idea could be getting improper. Artist’s impression of a super-puff exoplanet: a planet


Tremendous-puffs — fluffy planets noticed to have abnormally low densities — are an issue. In keeping with theoretical fashions, they shouldn’t exist — and but we’ve already detected half a dozen of them with Kepler alone. A brand new research explores what idea could be getting improper.

Super-puff exoplanet

Artist’s impression of a super-puff exoplanet: a planet with a big radius however small mass.
NASA / ESA / G. Bacon / STSCI

A Fluffy Puzzle

Among the many assortment of strange and sudden exoplanets we’ve found by years of observing transits, super-puffs stand out as a peculiar puzzle. Tremendous-puffs are planets with lots decrease than that of Neptune (< 5 Earth masses), but with sizes equivalent to those of gas-giant planets (transit radii > 5 Earth radii).

Photoevaporation from an exoplanet

Photoevaporation by a planet’s host can boil off the planet’s ambiance. This course of works all of the extra rapidly if the planet doesn’t have sturdy floor gravity to carry on to its ambiance.
MPIA

This doesn’t inherently appear problematic, till we think about our understanding of planet evolution. Given a super-puff’s low density, its ambiance must be tenuous at greatest; with out sturdy floor gravity to include it, the ambiance ought to get boiled off by the planet’s host star inside maybe 1,000 years. The super-puffs we see are a lot older than this, and but they nonetheless retain their prolonged atmospheres.

Piling on additional intrigue, transmission spectra of super-puffs present no evident spectral strains. Strains might be washed out by the presence of aerosols — clouds and hazes made up of mud or liquid droplets — however we wouldn’t count on these heavier particles to have the ability to keep lofted excessive sufficient in a fluffy planet’s ambiance to flatten out its strains.

In a brand new research, scientists Lile Wang (Flatiron Institute and Princeton College Observatory) and Fei Dai (MIT and Princeton College Observatory) counsel a revamped theoretical mannequin that solves each of those issues.

Presence of water feature vs mass

Spectral strengths of the water characteristic vs. planet mass. Planets with lots decrease than ~10 Earth lots don’t have sturdy sufficient gravity to keep away from having their spectral options washed out by dusty outflows within the planet ambiance.
Wang & Dai 2019

Options in Stream

Wang and Dai’s mannequin has a major change from earlier footage: their proposed ambiance is just not static. As an alternative, they counsel super-puffs have atmospheres that include outward flows, regularly carrying very small mud grains to excessive altitudes.

By populating the higher reaches of the ambiance with mud, these outflows improve the general opacity of the ambiance, which prevents it from boiling off rapidly. And the mud carried to the higher ambiance certainly washes out the spectral strains, offering a proof for the flat spectra we observe.

The authors mannequin one outstanding super-puff, Kepler 51b, and present that affordable outflow charges (a lack of simply 10-10 Earth lots of ambiance per yr) can carry mud grains of ~10 Å in measurement to excessive altitudes. They present that this course of inflates the noticed transit radius of the planet to the ~7 Earth radii we see, and it additionally flattens the planet’s transmission spectra.

Recognizing Indicators of Mud

Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer House Telescope could possibly be used to increase the spectral wavelength protection of planets of curiosity. Planets with dusty atmospheres would look bigger in optical than in infrared wavelengths.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

How may we confirm planet has dusty outflows in its ambiance? Wang and Dai level out that the obvious radius of such a planet will likely be wavelength-dependent: their mannequin planet, as an illustration, would seem 10–20% bigger at wavelengths of zero.5 µm than at wavelengths of 1 µm.

This phenomenon has already been noticed for a number of exoplanets, and the authors counsel that we may prolong the wavelength protection for transmission spectra to establish signatures of dusty atmospheres in different planets. Ought to dusty atmospheres show frequent amongst younger, low-mass exoplanets, we clearly might want to reformulate how we take into consideration these our bodies.

Quotation:

“Dusty Outflows in Planetary Atmospheres: Understanding “Tremendous-Puffs” and Transmission Spectra of Sub-Neptunes,” Lile Wang and Fei Dai 2019 ApJL 873 L1. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab0653

This put up initially appeared on AAS Nova, which options analysis highlights from the journals of the American Astronomical Society.



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