Monday, August 21, 2017

Habitable Moist Atmospheres On Terrestrial Planets Near the Inner Edge Of the Habitable Zone Around M-dwarfs

Habitable Moist Atmospheres On Terrestrial Planets Near the Inner Edge Of the Habitable Zone Around M-dwarfs


Kopparapu et al

Terrestrial planets in the habitable zones (HZs) of low-mass stars and cool dwarfs have received significant scrutiny recently because their shorter orbital periods increase their chances of detection and characterization compared to planets around G-dwarfs. As these planets are likely tidal-locked, improved 3D numerical simulations of such planetary atmospheres are needed to guide target selection. Here we use a 3-D climate system model, updated with new water-vapor absorption coefficients derived from the HITRAN 2012 database, to study ocean covered planets at the inner edge of the HZ around late-M to mid-K stars (2600 K <= Teff <= 4500K). Our results indicate that these updated water-vapor coefficients result in significant warming compared to previous studies, so the inner HZ around M-dwarfs is not as close as suggested by earlier work. Assuming synchronously rotating planets, we find that planets at the inner HZ of stars with Teff > 3000K undergo the classical "moist-greenhouse" (H2O mixing ratio > 10-3 in the stratosphere) at significantly lower surface temperature (~ 280K) in our 3-D model compared with 1-D climate models (~ 340K). This implies that some planets around low mass stars can simultaneously undergo water-loss and remain habitable. However, for star with Teff <= 3000K, planets at the inner HZ may directly transition to a runaway state, while bypassing the moist greenhouse water-loss entirely. We analyze transmission spectra of planets in a moist green- house regime, and find that there are several prominent H2O features, including a broad feature between 5-8 microns, within JWST MIRI instrument range. Thus, relying only upon standard Earth-analog spectra with 24-hour rotation period around M-dwarfs for habitability studies will miss the strong H2O features that one would expect to see on synchronously rotating planets around M-dwarf stars, with JWST.

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