Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A new way to Study Carbon-rich Exoplanet Atmospheres

A new chemical scheme to study carbon-rich exoplanet atmospheres


Venot et al


Atmospheres with a high C/O ratio are expected to contain an important quantity of hydrocarbons, including heavy molecules (with more than 2 carbon atoms). To study correctly these C-rich atmospheres, a chemical scheme adapted to this composition is necessary. We have implemented a chemical scheme that can describe the kinetics of species with up to 6 carbon atoms. This chemical scheme has been developed with specialists of combustion and validated through experiments on a wide range of T and P. This chemical network is available on the online database KIDA. We have created a grid of 12 models to explore different thermal profiles and C/O ratios. For each of them, we have compared the chemical composition determined with a C0-C2 chemical scheme (species with up to 2 carbon atoms) and with the C0-C6 scheme. We found no difference in the results obtained with the two schemes when photolyses are not included in the model, whatever the temperature of the atmosphere. In contrast, when there is photochemistry, differences can appear in the upper atmosphere. These differences are found for all the tested PT profiles in the case that the C/O ratio is above 1. When the C/O ratio of the atmosphere is solar, differences are only found at temperatures lower than 1000K. The differences linked to the use of different chemical schemes do not have important influence on the synthetic spectra. However, we have confirmed that C2H2 and HCN as possible tracers of warm C-rich atmospheres. The use of this new chemical scheme is mandatory to model atmospheres with a high C/O ratio and, in particular, if one is interested in studying in details the photochemistry. If one is just interested in the synthetic spectra, the use of a smaller scheme may be sufficient.

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