Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Radiation and Plasma Environment of the Kepler Circumbinary Habitable Zone Planets

Constraining the Radiation and Plasma Environment of the Kepler Circumbinary Habitable Zone Planets


Zuluaga et al


The remarkable discovery of many planets and candidates using the Kepler telescope even includes ten planets orbiting eight binaries. Three out of the eight, Kepler 16, Kepler 47, and KIC 9632895, have at least one planet in the circumbinary habitable zone (BHZ). In previous work (Mason et al. 2013), we investigated the potential habitability of Earth-like circumbinary planets. In particular, we highlighted the role of mutual stellar tidal interaction and the resulting impact on terrestrial planet habitability. The Kepler binaries with planets in the BHZ are studied in order to constrain the high energy radiation and plasma environment of potentially habitable circumbinary planets. The limits of the BHZ in these binaries as a function of time are estimated and the habitability lifetime is calculated. A self-consistent model of the evolution of stellar rotation including the effect of tidal interaction is key to establishing the plasma and radiation environment. A comprehensive model of the evolution of stellar activity and radiation properties, as proxies for stellar aggression towards planetary atmospheres is developed. We find that Kepler-16 has had a plasma environment favorable for the survival of atmospheres of Mars-sized planets and exomoons. Tides have modified the rotation of the stars in Kepler-47 making its radiation environment less harsh than solar system and a good example of the mechanism first proposed by Mason et al. (2013). KIC-9632895 has a plasma and radiation environment similar to that of solar system with slightly better than Earth radiation conditions at the inner edge of the BHZ.

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