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Beyond Earthly Skies

The Hot-Super-Earth Desert

19 Apr 2016, 22:00 UTC
The Hot-Super-Earth Desert
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The transition from a predominantly rocky composition to a volatile-rich composition occurs for planets roughly 1.6 to 1.8 times the radius of Earth. Planets around this size and larger are known as super-Earths since they are larger in size than Earth, but smaller than Neptune. For comparison, Neptune is about 3.8 times the size of Earth. Studies have shown that hot-super-Earth sized planets that orbit close to their host stars can have their volatile-rich envelopes stripped by photo-evaporation due to high incident fluxes. This results in a lack of super-Earth sized planets with high incident fluxes.A study by Lundkvist et al. (2016) shows there appears to be no super-Earth sized planets between 2.2 and 3.8 times the size of Earth that receive incident flux above 650 times the incident flux on Earth. This is consistent with the prediction that the majority of planets between 2.2 and 3.8 times the size of Earth are expected to be volatile-rich and would be stripped of their outer envelopes when subjected to high incident fluxes. As a result, some fraction of hot-super-Earth sized planets smaller than 2.2 times the size of Earth started out as larger planets whose volatile-rich envelopes were stripped away by ...

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