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Beyond Earthly Skies

Estimating the Mass-Loss for a Super-Earth

2 Aug 2014, 22:00 UTC
Estimating the Mass-Loss for a Super-Earth
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Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a super-Earth or mini-Neptune with a hydrogen-helium envelope.GJ 1214 is a red dwarf star located at a distance of approximately 47 light years. In 2009, an exoplanet identified as GJ 1214 b was reported around the red dwarf star. GJ 1214 b has 6.55 ± 0.98 times the mass of Earth, 2.68 ± 0.13 times the radius of Earth and an orbital period of 1.58 days. Its short orbital period indicates it is very close to its host star. The mass and radius of GJ 1214 b suggests it has a density of only 1.9 ± 0.4 g/cm³. For comparison, the mean density of Earth is 5.515 g/cm³. This indicates GJ 1214 b is not dense enough to be a rocky planet. Instead, the bulk composition of GJ 1214 b is consistent with one of three different models: (1) a mini-Neptune, (2) a hot ocean-planet, or (3) a rocky core with an extended hydrogen-helium envelope.A planet that orbits very close to its parent star receives high levels of stellar insolation and large amounts of high energy radiation from stellar activity. This can heat up the planet sufficiently to drive planetary mass-loss. In fact, ongoing mass-loss ...

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