Monday, September 11, 2017

Quasars Could Strip Exoplanetary Atmospheres

Evaporation of planetary atmospheres due to XUV illumination by quasars


Forbes et al

Planetary atmospheres are subject to mass loss through a variety of mechanisms including irradiation by XUV photons from their host star. Here we explore the consequences of XUV irradiation by supermassive black holes as they grow by the accretion of gas in galactic nuclei. Based on the mass distribution of stars in galactic bulges and disks and the luminosity history of individual black holes, we estimate the probability distribution function of XUV fluences as a function of galaxy halo mass, redshift, and stellar component. We find that about 50% of all planets in the universe may lose the equivalent of a Martian atmosphere, 10% may lose an Earth's atmosphere, and 0.2% may lose the mass of Earth's oceans. The fractions are appreciably higher in the spheroidal components of galaxies, and depend strongly on galaxy mass, but only weakly on redshift.

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