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Evolving Terrestrial Atmospheres: Can Fire and Air Make A Watery Earth?

8 Apr 2021, 11:42 UTC
Evolving Terrestrial Atmospheres: Can Fire and Air Make A Watery Earth?
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Title: Water On Hot Rocky ExoplanetsAuthors: Edwin S. Kite, Laura SchaeferFirst Author’s Institution: University of ChicagoStatus: Published in ApJ Letters, available on arXivMost Sun-like stars are thought to be home to a hot rocky exoplanet – that could mean that there are more than 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy! However, whether any of these planets have atmospheres remains unknown. Unlike the Blue Marble we call home, the way that many of these planets form leaves them as dead rocks.Most terrestrial planets larger than Earth (known as super-Earths) are thought to form as sub-Neptunes, consisting of a silicate magma ball surrounded by a thick atmosphere accreted from the planetary disc during formation. Because this atmosphere is dominated by light hydrogen molecules, it has a low mean molecular weight (, the average weight of each molecule in the atmosphere) and is later lost to space via atmospheric escape, leaving behind the bare super-Earth. While it’s possible for planets to regain an atmosphere via volcanic activity or impacts from comets, what if there was a way for super-Earths to develop atmospheres while they evolve from sub-Neptunes?Today’s paper explores a potential pathway that can not only generate super-Earth atmospheres, but could ...

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