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Pathways to Earth-Like Atmospheres

Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV)-Powered Escape of Hydrogen-Rich Protoatmospheres

Abstract

We discuss the evolution of the atmosphere of early Earth and of terrestrial exoplanets which may be capable of sustaining liquid water oceans and continents where life may originate. The formation age of a terrestrial planet, its mass and size, as well as the lifetime in the EUV-saturated early phase of its host star play a significant role in its atmosphere evolution. We show that planets even in orbits within the habitable zone of their host stars might not lose nebular- or catastrophically outgassed initial protoatmospheres completely and could end up as water worlds with CO2 and hydrogen- or oxygen-rich upper atmospheres. If an atmosphere of a terrestrial planet evolves to an N2-rich atmosphere too early in its lifetime, the atmosphere may be lost. We show that the initial conditions set up by the formation of a terrestrial planet and by the evolution of the host star’s EUV and plasma environment are very important factors owing to which a planet may evolve to a habitable world. Finally we present a method for studying the discussed atmosphere evolution hypotheses by future UV transit observations of terrestrial exoplanets.

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Notes

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    Energy limited means that the ratio of the net heating rate to the rate of stellar energy absorption is η = 100% that is all absorbed EUV energy is converted to heat.

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Acknowledgements

H. Lammer, K. G. Kislyakova and Yu. N. Kulikov thank the Helmholtz Alliance project “Planetary Evolution and Life“ and the joined Austrian FWF and Russian Fund for Basic Research (RFBR) projects I199-N16/09-02-91002-ANF_a. M. Güdel, M. L. Khodachenko, H. Lammer and E. Pilat-Lohinger acknowledge the support by the FWF NFN project S116 “Wege zur Habitabilität: Scheiben zu Sternen, Planeten & Leben”, and the FWF NFN subprojects, S116 604-N16, S116 608-N16, S116 606-N16, S116607-N16. E. Pilat-Lohinger was supported by the FWF project P22603. A. Hanslmeier, P. Odert and M. Leitzinger acknowledge the FWF project P22950-N16. R. Schwarz acknowledges the support by the Austrian FWF project P 23810-N16. K. G. Kislyakova also acknowledges the RFBR project 08-02-00119_a, the NK-21P project of the Russian Education Ministry. The authors also acknowledge support from the EU FP7 project IMPEx (No.262863) and the EUROPLANET-RI projects, JRA3/EMDAF and the Na2 science WG4 and WG5. Finally, the authors acknowledge a support from the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, and the ISSI team “Characterizing stellar- and exoplanetary environments”.

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Lammer, H., Kislyakova, K.G., Odert, P. et al. Pathways to Earth-Like Atmospheres. Orig Life Evol Biosph 41, 503–522 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11084-012-9264-7

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Keywords

  • Atmosphere formation
  • Young stars
  • Early Earth
  • Habitability