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1.  Spectral Fingerprints of Earth-like Planets Around FGK Stars 
Astrobiology  2013;13(3):251-269.
Abstract
We present model atmospheres for an Earth-like planet orbiting the entire grid of main sequence FGK stars with effective temperatures ranging from Teff=4250 K to Teff=7000 K in 250 K intervals. We have modeled the remotely detectable spectra of Earth-like planets for clear and cloudy atmospheres at the 1 AU equivalent distance from the VIS to IR (0.4 to 20 μm) to compare detectability of features in different wavelength ranges in accordance with the James Webb Space Telescope and future design concepts to characterize exo-Earths. We have also explored the effect of the stellar UV levels as well as spectral energy distribution on a terrestrial atmosphere, concentrating on detectable atmospheric features that indicate habitability on Earth, namely, H2O, O3, CH4, N2O, and CH3Cl.
The increase in UV dominates changes of O3, OH, CH4, N2O, and CH3Cl, whereas the increase in stellar temperature dominates changes in H2O. The overall effect as stellar effective temperatures and corresponding UV increase is a lower surface temperature of the planet due to a bigger part of the stellar flux being reflected at short wavelengths, as well as increased photolysis. Earth-like atmosphere models show more O3 and OH but less stratospheric CH4, N2O, CH3Cl, and tropospheric H2O (but more stratospheric H2O) with increasing effective temperature of main sequence stars. The corresponding detectable spectral features, on the other hand, show different detectability depending on the wavelength observed.
We concentrate on directly imaged planets here as a framework to interpret future light curves, direct imaging, and secondary eclipse measurements of atmospheres of terrestrial planets in the habitable zone at varying orbital positions. Key Words: Habitability—Planetary atmospheres—Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Spectroscopic biosignatures. Astrobiology 13, 251–269.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0888
PMCID: PMC3612284  PMID: 23537136
2.  The Effect of Host Star Spectral Energy Distribution and Ice-Albedo Feedback on the Climate of Extrasolar Planets 
Astrobiology  2013;13(8):715-739.
Abstract
Planetary climate can be affected by the interaction of the host star spectral energy distribution with the wavelength-dependent reflectivity of ice and snow. In this study, we explored this effect with a one-dimensional (1-D), line-by-line, radiative transfer model to calculate broadband planetary albedos as input to a seasonally varying, 1-D energy balance climate model. A three-dimensional (3-D) general circulation model was also used to explore the atmosphere's response to changes in incoming stellar radiation, or instellation, and surface albedo. Using this hierarchy of models, we simulated planets covered by ocean, land, and water-ice of varying grain size, with incident radiation from stars of different spectral types. Terrestrial planets orbiting stars with higher near-UV radiation exhibited a stronger ice-albedo feedback. We found that ice extent was much greater on a planet orbiting an F-dwarf star than on a planet orbiting a G-dwarf star at an equivalent flux distance, and that ice-covered conditions occurred on an F-dwarf planet with only a 2% reduction in instellation relative to the present instellation on Earth, assuming fixed CO2 (present atmospheric level on Earth). A similar planet orbiting the Sun at an equivalent flux distance required an 8% reduction in instellation, while a planet orbiting an M-dwarf star required an additional 19% reduction in instellation to become ice-covered, equivalent to 73% of the modern solar constant. The reduction in instellation must be larger for planets orbiting cooler stars due in large part to the stronger absorption of longer-wavelength radiation by icy surfaces on these planets in addition to stronger absorption by water vapor and CO2 in their atmospheres, which provides increased downwelling longwave radiation. Lowering the IR and visible-band surface ice and snow albedos for an M-dwarf planet increased the planet's climate stability against changes in instellation and slowed the descent into global ice coverage. The surface ice-albedo feedback effect becomes less important at the outer edge of the habitable zone, where atmospheric CO2 could be expected to be high such that it maintains clement conditions for surface liquid water. We showed that ∼3–10 bar of CO2 will entirely mask the climatic effect of ice and snow, leaving the outer limits of the habitable zone unaffected by the spectral dependence of water ice and snow albedo. However, less CO2 is needed to maintain open water for a planet orbiting an M-dwarf star than would be the case for hotter main-sequence stars. Key Words: Extrasolar planets—M stars—Habitable zone—Snowball Earth. Astrobiology 13, 715–739.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0961
PMCID: PMC3746291  PMID: 23855332
3.  Using Dimers to Measure Biosignatures and Atmospheric Pressure for Terrestrial Exoplanets 
Astrobiology  2014;14(2):67-86.
Abstract
We present a new method to probe atmospheric pressure on Earth-like planets using (O2-O2) dimers in the near-infrared. We also show that dimer features could be the most readily detectable biosignatures for Earth-like atmospheres and may even be detectable in transit transmission with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The absorption by dimers changes more rapidly with pressure and density than that of monomers and can therefore provide additional information about atmospheric pressures. By comparing the absorption strengths of rotational and vibrational features to the absorption strengths of dimer features, we show that in some cases it may be possible to estimate the pressure at the reflecting surface of a planet. This method is demonstrated by using the O2 A band and the 1.06 μm dimer feature, either in transmission or reflected spectra. It works best for planets around M dwarfs with atmospheric pressures between 0.1 and 10 bar and for O2 volume mixing ratios above 50% of Earth's present-day level. Furthermore, unlike observations of Rayleigh scattering, this method can be used at wavelengths longer than 0.6 μm and is therefore potentially applicable, although challenging, to near-term planet characterization missions such as JWST. We also performed detectability studies for JWST transit transmission spectroscopy and found that the 1.06 and 1.27 μm dimer features could be detectable (SNR>3) for an Earth analogue orbiting an M5V star at a distance of 5 pc. The detection of these features could provide a constraint on the atmospheric pressure of an exoplanet and serve as biosignatures for oxygenic photosynthesis. We calculated the required signal-to-noise ratios to detect and characterize O2 monomer and dimer features in direct imaging–reflected spectra and found that signal-to-noise ratios greater than 10 at a spectral resolving power of R=100 would be required. Key Words: Remote sensing—Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Habitability—Radiative transfer—Biosignatures. Astrobiology 14, 67–86.
doi:10.1089/ast.2013.0990
PMCID: PMC3928785  PMID: 24432758
4.  The Dependence of the Ice-Albedo Feedback on Atmospheric Properties 
Astrobiology  2013;13(10):899-909.
Abstract
Ice-albedo feedback is a potentially important destabilizing effect for the climate of terrestrial planets. It is based on the positive feedback between decreasing surface temperatures, an increase of snow and ice cover, and an associated increase in planetary albedo, which then further decreases surface temperature. A recent study shows that for M stars, the strength of the ice-albedo feedback is reduced due to the strong spectral dependence of stellar radiation and snow/ice albedos; that is, M stars primarily emit in the near IR, where the snow and ice albedo is low, and less in the visible, where the snow/ice albedo is high.
This study investigates the influence of the atmosphere (in terms of surface pressure and atmospheric composition) on this feedback, since an atmosphere was neglected in previous studies. A plane-parallel radiative transfer model was used for the calculation of planetary albedos. We varied CO2 partial pressures as well as the H2O, CH4, and O3 content in the atmosphere for planets orbiting Sun-like and M type stars.
Results suggest that, for planets around M stars, the ice-albedo effect is significantly reduced, compared to planets around Sun-like stars. Including the effects of an atmosphere further suppresses the sensitivity to the ice-albedo effect. Atmospheric key properties such as surface pressure, but also the abundance of radiative trace gases, can considerably change the strength of the ice-albedo feedback. For dense CO2 atmospheres of the order of a few to tens of bar, atmospheric rather than surface properties begin to dominate the planetary radiation budget. At high CO2 pressures, the ice-albedo feedback is strongly reduced for planets around M stars. The presence of trace amounts of H2O and CH4 in the atmosphere also weakens the ice-albedo effect for both stellar types considered. For planets around Sun-like stars, O3 could also lead to a very strong decrease of the ice-albedo feedback at high CO2 pressures. Key Words: Atmospheric compositions—Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Snowball Earth—Planetary atmospheres—Radiative transfer. Astrobiology 13, 899–909.
doi:10.1089/ast.2013.0993
PMCID: PMC3807702  PMID: 24111995
5.  Response of Atmospheric Biomarkers to NOx-Induced Photochemistry Generated by Stellar Cosmic Rays for Earth-like Planets in the Habitable Zone of M Dwarf Stars 
Astrobiology  2012;12(12):1109-1122.
Abstract
Understanding whether M dwarf stars may host habitable planets with Earth-like atmospheres and biospheres is a major goal in exoplanet research. If such planets exist, the question remains as to whether they could be identified via spectral signatures of biomarkers. Such planets may be exposed to extreme intensities of cosmic rays that could perturb their atmospheric photochemistry. Here, we consider stellar activity of M dwarfs ranging from quiet up to strong flaring conditions and investigate one particular effect upon biomarkers, namely, the ability of secondary electrons caused by stellar cosmic rays to break up atmospheric molecular nitrogen (N2), which leads to production of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the planetary atmosphere, hence affecting biomarkers such as ozone (O3). We apply a stationary model, that is, without a time dependence; hence we are calculating the limiting case where the atmospheric chemistry response time of the biomarkers is assumed to be slow and remains constant compared with rapid forcing by the impinging stellar flares. This point should be further explored in future work with time-dependent models. We estimate the NOx production using an air shower approach and evaluate the implications using a climate-chemical model of the planetary atmosphere. O3 formation proceeds via the reaction O+O2+M→O3+M. At high NOx abundances, the O atoms arise mainly from NO2 photolysis, whereas on Earth this occurs via the photolysis of molecular oxygen (O2). For the flaring case, O3 is mainly destroyed via direct titration, NO+O3→NO2+O2, and not via the familiar catalytic cycle photochemistry, which occurs on Earth. For scenarios with low O3, Rayleigh scattering by the main atmospheric gases (O2, N2, and CO2) became more important for shielding the planetary surface from UV radiation. A major result of this work is that the biomarker O3 survived all the stellar-activity scenarios considered except for the strong case, whereas the biomarker nitrous oxide (N2O) could survive in the planetary atmosphere under all conditions of stellar activity considered here, which clearly has important implications for missions that aim to detect spectroscopic biomarkers. Key Words: M dwarf—Atmosphere—Earth-like—Biomarkers—Stellar cosmic rays. Astrobiology 12, 1109–1122.
doi:10.1089/ast.2011.0682
PMCID: PMC3522229  PMID: 23215581
6.  Chaotic Exchange of Solid Material Between Planetary Systems: Implications for Lithopanspermia 
Astrobiology  2012;12(8):754-774.
Abstract
We examined a low-energy mechanism for the transfer of meteoroids between two planetary systems embedded in a star cluster using quasi-parabolic orbits of minimal energy. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we found that the exchange of meteoroids could have been significantly more efficient than previously estimated. Our study is relevant to astrobiology, as it addresses whether life on Earth could have been transferred to other planetary systems in the Solar System's birth cluster and whether life on Earth could have been transferred from beyond the Solar System. In the Solar System, the timescale over which solid material was delivered to the region from where it could be transferred via this mechanism likely extended to several hundred million years (as indicated by the 3.8–4.0 Ga epoch of the Late Heavy Bombardment). This timescale could have overlapped with the lifetime of the Solar birth cluster (∼100–500 Myr). Therefore, we conclude that lithopanspermia is an open possibility if life had an early start. Adopting parameters from the minimum mass solar nebula, considering a range of planetesimal size distributions derived from observations of asteroids and Kuiper Belt objects and theoretical coagulation models, and taking into account Oort Cloud formation models, we discerned that the expected number of bodies with mass>10 kg that could have been transferred between the Sun and its nearest cluster neighbor could be of the order of 1014 to 3·1016, with transfer timescales of tens of millions of years. We estimate that of the order of 3·108·l (km) could potentially be life-bearing, where l is the depth of Earth's crust in kilometers that was ejected as the result of the early bombardment. Key Words: Extrasolar planets—Interplanetary dust—Interstellar meteorites—Lithopanspermia. Astrobiology 12, 754–774.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0825
PMCID: PMC3440031  PMID: 22897115
7.  Extreme Water Loss and Abiotic O2 Buildup on Planets Throughout the Habitable Zones of M Dwarfs 
Astrobiology  2015;15(2):119-143.
Abstract
We show that terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of M dwarfs older than ∼1 Gyr could have been in runaway greenhouses for several hundred million years following their formation due to the star's extended pre-main sequence phase, provided they form with abundant surface water. Such prolonged runaway greenhouses can lead to planetary evolution divergent from that of Earth. During this early runaway phase, photolysis of water vapor and hydrogen/oxygen escape to space can lead to the loss of several Earth oceans of water from planets throughout the habitable zone, regardless of whether the escape is energy-limited or diffusion-limited. We find that the amount of water lost scales with the planet mass, since the diffusion-limited hydrogen escape flux is proportional to the planet surface gravity. In addition to undergoing potential desiccation, planets with inefficient oxygen sinks at the surface may build up hundreds to thousands of bar of abiotically produced O2, resulting in potential false positives for life. The amount of O2 that builds up also scales with the planet mass; we find that O2 builds up at a constant rate that is controlled by diffusion: ∼5 bar/Myr on Earth-mass planets and up to ∼25 bar/Myr on super-Earths. As a result, some recently discovered super-Earths in the habitable zone such as GJ 667Cc could have built up as many as 2000 bar of O2 due to the loss of up to 10 Earth oceans of water. The fate of a given planet strongly depends on the extreme ultraviolet flux, the duration of the runaway regime, the initial water content, and the rate at which oxygen is absorbed by the surface. In general, we find that the initial phase of high luminosity may compromise the habitability of many terrestrial planets orbiting low-mass stars. Key Words: Astrobiology—Biosignatures—Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Habitability—Planetary atmospheres. Astrobiology 15, 119–143.
doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1231
PMCID: PMC4323125  PMID: 25629240
8.  Potential Biosignatures in Super-Earth Atmospheres II. Photochemical Responses 
Astrobiology  2013;13(5):415-438.
Abstract
Spectral characterization of super-Earth atmospheres for planets orbiting in the habitable zone of M dwarf stars is a key focus in exoplanet science. A central challenge is to understand and predict the expected spectral signals of atmospheric biosignatures (species associated with life). Our work applies a global-mean radiative-convective-photochemical column model assuming a planet with an Earth-like biomass and planetary development. We investigated planets with gravities of 1g and 3g and a surface pressure of 1 bar around central stars with spectral classes from M0 to M7. The spectral signals of the calculated planetary scenarios have been presented by in an earlier work by Rauer and colleagues. The main motivation of the present work is to perform a deeper analysis of the chemical processes in the planetary atmospheres. We apply a diagnostic tool, the Pathway Analysis Program, to shed light on the photochemical pathways that form and destroy biosignature species. Ozone is a potential biosignature for complex life. An important result of our analysis is a shift in the ozone photochemistry from mainly Chapman production (which dominates in Earth's stratosphere) to smog-dominated ozone production for planets in the habitable zone of cooler (M5–M7)-class dwarf stars. This result is associated with a lower energy flux in the UVB wavelength range from the central star, hence slower planetary atmospheric photolysis of molecular oxygen, which slows the Chapman ozone production. This is important for future atmospheric characterization missions because it provides an indication of different chemical environments that can lead to very different responses of ozone, for example, cosmic rays. Nitrous oxide, a biosignature for simple bacterial life, is favored for low stratospheric UV conditions, that is, on planets orbiting cooler stars. Transport of this species from its surface source to the stratosphere where it is destroyed can also be a key process. Comparing 1g with 3g scenarios, our analysis suggests it is important to include the effects of interactive chemistry. Key Words: Exoplanets—Earth-like—M-dwarf—Photochemistry—Biosignatures. Astrobiology 13, 415–438.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0926
PMCID: PMC3941937  PMID: 23683046
9.  Formation, Habitability, and Detection of Extrasolar Moons 
Astrobiology  2014;14(9):798-835.
Abstract
The diversity and quantity of moons in the Solar System suggest a manifold population of natural satellites exist around extrasolar planets. Of peculiar interest from an astrobiological perspective, the number of sizable moons in the stellar habitable zones may outnumber planets in these circumstellar regions. With technological and theoretical methods now allowing for the detection of sub-Earth-sized extrasolar planets, the first detection of an extrasolar moon appears feasible. In this review, we summarize formation channels of massive exomoons that are potentially detectable with current or near-future instruments. We discuss the orbital effects that govern exomoon evolution, we present a framework to characterize an exomoon's stellar plus planetary illumination as well as its tidal heating, and we address the techniques that have been proposed to search for exomoons. Most notably, we show that natural satellites in the range of 0.1–0.5 Earth mass (i) are potentially habitable, (ii) can form within the circumplanetary debris and gas disk or via capture from a binary, and (iii) are detectable with current technology. Key Words: Astrobiology—Extrasolar planets—Habitability—Planetary science—Tides. Astrobiology 14, 798–835.
doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1147
PMCID: PMC4172466  PMID: 25147963
10.  Nonphotosynthetic Pigments as Potential Biosignatures 
Astrobiology  2015;15(5):341-361.
Abstract
Previous work on possible surface reflectance biosignatures for Earth-like planets has typically focused on analogues to spectral features produced by photosynthetic organisms on Earth, such as the vegetation red edge. Although oxygenic photosynthesis, facilitated by pigments evolved to capture photons, is the dominant metabolism on our planet, pigmentation has evolved for multiple purposes to adapt organisms to their environment. We present an interdisciplinary study of the diversity and detectability of nonphotosynthetic pigments as biosignatures, which includes a description of environments that host nonphotosynthetic biologically pigmented surfaces, and a lab-based experimental analysis of the spectral and broadband color diversity of pigmented organisms on Earth. We test the utility of broadband color to distinguish between Earth-like planets with significant coverage of nonphotosynthetic pigments and those with photosynthetic or nonbiological surfaces, using both 1-D and 3-D spectral models. We demonstrate that, given sufficient surface coverage, nonphotosynthetic pigments could significantly impact the disk-averaged spectrum of a planet. However, we find that due to the possible diversity of organisms and environments, and the confounding effects of the atmosphere and clouds, determination of substantial coverage by biologically produced pigments would be difficult with broadband colors alone and would likely require spectrally resolved data. Key Words: Biosignatures—Exoplanets—Halophiles—Pigmentation—Reflectance spectroscopy—Spectral models. Astrobiology 15, 341–361.
doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1178
PMCID: PMC4442567  PMID: 25941875
11.  XUV-Exposed, Non-Hydrostatic Hydrogen-Rich Upper Atmospheres of Terrestrial Planets. Part II: Hydrogen Coronae and Ion Escape 
Astrobiology  2013;13(11):1030-1048.
Abstract
We studied the interactions between the stellar wind plasma flow of a typical M star, such as GJ 436, and the hydrogen-rich upper atmosphere of an Earth-like planet and a “super-Earth” with a radius of 2 REarth and a mass of 10 MEarth, located within the habitable zone at ∼0.24 AU. We investigated the formation of extended atomic hydrogen coronae under the influences of the stellar XUV flux (soft X-rays and EUV), stellar wind density and velocity, shape of a planetary obstacle (e.g., magnetosphere, ionopause), and the loss of planetary pickup ions on the evolution of hydrogen-dominated upper atmospheres. Stellar XUV fluxes that are 1, 10, 50, and 100 times higher compared to that of the present-day Sun were considered, and the formation of high-energy neutral hydrogen clouds around the planets due to the charge-exchange reaction under various stellar conditions was modeled. Charge-exchange between stellar wind protons with planetary hydrogen atoms, and photoionization, lead to the production of initially cold ions of planetary origin. We found that the ion production rates for the studied planets can vary over a wide range, from ∼1.0×1025 s−1 to ∼5.3×1030 s−1, depending on the stellar wind conditions and the assumed XUV exposure of the upper atmosphere. Our findings indicate that most likely the majority of these planetary ions are picked up by the stellar wind and lost from the planet. Finally, we estimated the long-time nonthermal ion pickup escape for the studied planets and compared them with the thermal escape. According to our estimates, nonthermal escape of picked-up ionized hydrogen atoms over a planet's lifetime within the habitable zone of an M dwarf varies between ∼0.4 Earth ocean equivalent amounts of hydrogen (EOH) to <3 EOH and usually is several times smaller in comparison to the thermal atmospheric escape rates. Key Words: Stellar activity—Low-mass stars—Early atmospheres—Earth-like exoplanets—Energetic neutral atoms—Ion escape—Habitability. Astrobiology 13, 1030–1048.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0958
PMCID: PMC3865724  PMID: 24283926
12.  Passive Detection of Biological Aerosols in the Atmosphere with a Fourier Transform Instrument (FTIR)—the Results of the Measurements in the Laboratory and in the Field 
Fourier Transform Infrared Radiation (FTIR) spectroscopy is one of the most powerful methods for the detection of gaseous constituents, aerosols, and dust in planetary atmospheres. Infrared spectroscopy plays an important role in searching for biomarkers, organics and biological substances in the Universe. The possibility of detection and identifications with FTIR spectrometer of bio-aerosol spores (Bacillus atrophaeus var. globigii=BG) in the atmosphere is discussed in this paper. We describe the results of initial spectral measurements performed in the laboratory and in the field. The purpose of these experiments was to detect and to identify bio-aerosol spores in two conditions: 1) In a closed chamber where the thermal contrast between the background and aerosols was large, and 2) In open air where the thermal contrast between the background and aerosols was small. The extinction spectrum of BG spores was deduced by comparing our measurements with models, and other measurements known from the literature. Our theoretical and experimental studies indicate that, during passive remote sensing measurements, it is difficult—but possible to detect and to identify bio-aerosol clouds by their spectral signatures. The simple spectral analysis described in the paper can be useful for the detection of various kinds of trace aerosols—not only in the Earth’s atmosphere, but also during planetary missions in the environments of other astronomical objects such as planets, comets etc. We expect that the interpretation of data from spectrometric sounding of Venus and Mars during the current missions Mars and Venus Express, and later during the Rosetta mission will benefit from our experimental work and numerical modelling.
doi:10.1007/s11084-012-9288-z
PMCID: PMC3389243  PMID: 22707349
Bio-aerosols; Spectroscopy; Remote sensing of the atmosphere; Astrobiology
13.  Geology and Photometric Variation of Solar System Bodies with Minor Atmospheres: Implications for Solid Exoplanets 
Astrobiology  2014;14(9):753-768.
Abstract
A reasonable basis for future astronomical investigations of exoplanets lies in our best knowledge of the planets and satellites in the Solar System. Solar System bodies exhibit a wide variety of surface environments, even including potential habitable conditions beyond Earth, and it is essential to know how they can be characterized from outside the Solar System. In this study, we provide an overview of geological features of major Solar System solid bodies with minor atmospheres (i.e., the terrestrial Moon, Mercury, the Galilean moons, and Mars) that affect surface albedo at local to global scale, and we survey how they influence point-source photometry in the UV/visible/near IR (i.e., the reflection-dominant range). We simulate them based on recent mapping products and also compile observed light curves where available. We show a 5–50% peak-to-trough variation amplitude in one spin rotation associated with various geological processes including heterogeneous surface compositions due to igneous activities, interaction with surrounding energetic particles, and distribution of grained materials. Some indications of these processes are provided by the amplitude and wavelength dependence of variation in combinations of the time-averaged spectra. We also estimate the photometric precision needed to detect their spin rotation rates through periodogram analysis. Our survey illustrates realistic possibilities for inferring the detailed properties of solid exoplanets with future direct imaging observations. Key Words: Planetary environments—Planetary geology—Solar System—Extrasolar terrestrial planets. Astrobiology 14, 753–768.
doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1165
PMCID: PMC4172389  PMID: 25238324
14.  The Effect of a Strong Stellar Flare on the Atmospheric Chemistry of an Earth-like Planet Orbiting an M Dwarf 
Astrobiology  2010;10(7):751-771.
Abstract
Main sequence M stars pose an interesting problem for astrobiology: their abundance in our galaxy makes them likely targets in the hunt for habitable planets, but their strong chromospheric activity produces high-energy radiation and charged particles that may be detrimental to life. We studied the impact of the 1985 April 12 flare from the M dwarf AD Leonis (AD Leo), simulating the effects from both UV radiation and protons on the atmospheric chemistry of a hypothetical, Earth-like planet located within its habitable zone. Based on observations of solar proton events and the Neupert effect, we estimated a proton flux associated with the flare of 5.9 × 108 protons cm−2 sr−1 s−1 for particles with energies >10 MeV. Then we calculated the abundance of nitrogen oxides produced by the flare by scaling the production of these compounds during a large solar proton event called the Carrington event. The simulations were performed with a 1-D photochemical model coupled to a 1-D radiative/convective model. Our results indicate that the UV radiation emitted during the flare does not produce a significant change in the ozone column depth of the planet. When the action of protons is included, the ozone depletion reaches a maximum of 94% two years after the flare for a planet with no magnetic field. At the peak of the flare, the calculated UV fluxes that reach the surface, in the wavelength ranges that are damaging for life, exceed those received on Earth during less than 100 s. Therefore, flares may not present a direct hazard for life on the surface of an orbiting habitable planet. Given that AD Leo is one of the most magnetically active M dwarfs known, this conclusion should apply to planets around other M dwarfs with lower levels of chromospheric activity. Key Words: M dwarf—Flare—Habitable zone—Planetary atmospheres. Astrobiology 10, 751–771.
doi:10.1089/ast.2009.0376
PMCID: PMC3103837  PMID: 20879863
15.  On the average temperature of airless spherical bodies and the magnitude of Earth’s atmospheric thermal effect 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:723.
The presence of atmosphere can appreciably warm a planet’s surface above the temperature of an airless environment. Known as a natural Greenhouse Effect (GE), this near-surface Atmospheric Thermal Enhancement (ATE) as named herein is presently entirely attributed to the absorption of up-welling long-wave radiation by greenhouse gases. Often quoted as 33 K for Earth, GE is estimated as a difference between planet’s observed mean surface temperature and an effective radiating temperature calculated from the globally averaged absorbed solar flux using the Stefan-Boltzmann (SB) radiation law. This approach equates a planet’s average temperature in the absence of greenhouse gases or atmosphere to an effective emission temperature assuming ATE ≡ GE. The SB law is also routinely employed to estimating the mean temperatures of airless bodies. We demonstrate that this formula as applied to spherical objects is mathematically incorrect owing to Hölder’s inequality between integrals and leads to biased results such as a significant underestimation of Earth’s ATE. We derive a new expression for the mean physical temperature of airless bodies based on an analytic integration of the SB law over a sphere that accounts for effects of regolith heat storage and cosmic background radiation on nighttime temperatures. Upon verifying our model against Moon surface temperature data provided by the NASA Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, we propose it as a new analytic standard for evaluating the thermal environment of airless bodies. Physical evidence is presented that Earth’s ATE should be assessed against the temperature of an equivalent airless body such as the Moon rather than a hypothetical atmosphere devoid of greenhouse gases. Employing the new temperature formula we show that Earth’s total ATE is ~90 K, not 33 K, and that ATE = GE + TE, where GE is the thermal effect of greenhouse gases, while TE > 15 K is a thermodynamic enhancement independent of the atmospheric infrared back radiation. It is concluded that the contribution of greenhouse gases to Earth’s ATE defined as GE = ATE – TE might be greater than 33 K, but will remain uncertain until the strength of the hereto identified TE is fully quantified by future research.
doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-723
PMCID: PMC4447774  PMID: 26034697
Planetary temperature; Analytic model; Atmospheric thermal enhancement; Greenhouse effect; Thermodynamic enhancement; Hölder’s inequality
16.  Tidal Heating of Earth-like Exoplanets around M Stars: Thermal, Magnetic, and Orbital Evolutions 
Astrobiology  2015;15(9):739-760.
Abstract
The internal thermal and magnetic evolution of rocky exoplanets is critical to their habitability. We focus on the thermal-orbital evolution of Earth-mass planets around low-mass M stars whose radiative habitable zone overlaps with the “tidal zone,” where tidal dissipation is expected to be a significant heat source in the interior. We develop a thermal-orbital evolution model calibrated to Earth that couples tidal dissipation, with a temperature-dependent Maxwell rheology, to orbital circularization and migration. We illustrate thermal-orbital steady states where surface heat flow is balanced by tidal dissipation and cooling can be stalled for billions of years until circularization occurs. Orbital energy dissipated as tidal heat in the interior drives both inward migration and circularization, with a circularization time that is inversely proportional to the dissipation rate. We identify a peak in the internal dissipation rate as the mantle passes through a viscoelastic state at mantle temperatures near 1800 K. Planets orbiting a 0.1 solar-mass star within 0.07 AU circularize before 10 Gyr, independent of initial eccentricity. Once circular, these planets cool monotonically and maintain dynamos similar to that of Earth. Planets forced into eccentric orbits can experience a super-cooling of the core and rapid core solidification, inhibiting dynamo action for planets in the habitable zone. We find that tidal heating is insignificant in the habitable zone around 0.45 (or larger) solar-mass stars because tidal dissipation is a stronger function of orbital distance than stellar mass, and the habitable zone is farther from larger stars. Suppression of the planetary magnetic field exposes the atmosphere to stellar wind erosion and the surface to harmful radiation. In addition to weak magnetic fields, massive melt eruption rates and prolonged magma oceans may render eccentric planets in the habitable zone of low-mass stars inhospitable for life. Key Words: Tidal dissipation—Thermal history—Planetary interiors—Magnetic field. Astrobiology 15, 739–760.
doi:10.1089/ast.2015.1325
PMCID: PMC4582693  PMID: 26393398
17.  Lunar Spectral Irradiance and Radiance (LUSI): New Instrumentation to Characterize the Moon as a Space-Based Radiometric Standard 
The need to understand and monitor climate change has led to proposed radiometric accuracy requirements for space-based remote sensing instruments that are very stringent and currently outside the capabilities of many Earth orbiting instruments. A major problem is quantifying changes in sensor performance that occur from launch and during the mission. To address this problem on-orbit calibrators and monitors have been developed, but they too can suffer changes from launch and the harsh space environment. One solution is to use the Moon as a calibration reference source. Already the Moon has been used to remove post-launch drift and to cross-calibrate different instruments, but further work is needed to develop a new model with low absolute uncertainties capable of climate-quality absolute calibration of Earth observing instruments on orbit. To this end, we are proposing an Earth-based instrument suite to measure the absolute lunar spectral irradiance to an uncertainty1 of 0.5 % (k=1) over the spectral range from 320 nm to 2500 nm with a spectral resolution of approximately 0.3 %. Absolute measurements of lunar radiance will also be acquired to facilitate calibration of high spatial resolution sensors. The instruments will be deployed at high elevation astronomical observatories and flown on high-altitude balloons in order to mitigate the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on the lunar observations. Periodic calibrations using instrumentation and techniques available from NIST will ensure traceability to the International System of Units (SI) and low absolute radiometric uncertainties.
doi:10.6028/jres.117.011
PMCID: PMC4553864  PMID: 26900523
moon; radiometry; satellite sensor calibration
18.  The Moon as a Recorder of Organic Evolution in the Early Solar System: A Lunar Regolith Analog Study 
Astrobiology  2015;15(2):154-168.
Abstract
The organic record of Earth older than ∼3.8 Ga has been effectively erased. Some insight is provided to us by meteorites as well as remote and direct observations of asteroids and comets left over from the formation of the Solar System. These primitive objects provide a record of early chemical evolution and a sample of material that has been delivered to Earth's surface throughout the past 4.5 billion years. Yet an effective chronicle of organic evolution on all Solar System objects, including that on planetary surfaces, is more difficult to find. Fortunately, early Earth would not have been the only recipient of organic matter–containing objects in the early Solar System. For example, a recently proposed model suggests the possibility that volatiles, including organic material, remain archived in buried paleoregolith deposits intercalated with lava flows on the Moon. Where asteroids and comets allow the study of processes before planet formation, the lunar record could extend that chronicle to early biological evolution on the planets. In this study, we use selected free and polymeric organic materials to assess the hypothesis that organic matter can survive the effects of heating in the lunar regolith by overlying lava flows. Results indicate that the presence of lunar regolith simulant appears to promote polymerization and, therefore, preservation of organic matter. Once polymerized, the mineral-hosted newly formed organic network is relatively protected from further thermal degradation. Our findings reveal the thermal conditions under which preservation of organic matter on the Moon is viable. Key Words: Moon—Regolith—Organic preservation—Biomarkers. Astrobiology 15, 154–168.
doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1217
PMCID: PMC4322787  PMID: 25615648
19.  Optimal Atmospheric Correction for Above-Ground Forest Biomass Estimation with the ETM+ Remote Sensor 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2015;15(8):18865-18886.
The reflectance of the Earth’s surface is significantly influenced by atmospheric conditions such as water vapor content and aerosols. Particularly, the absorption and scattering effects become stronger when the target features are non-bright objects, such as in aqueous or vegetated areas. For any remote-sensing approach, atmospheric correction is thus required to minimize those effects and to convert digital number (DN) values to surface reflectance. The main aim of this study was to test the three most popular atmospheric correction models, namely (1) Dark Object Subtraction (DOS); (2) Fast Line-of-sight Atmospheric Analysis of Spectral Hypercubes (FLAASH) and (3) the Second Simulation of Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum (6S) and compare them with Top of Atmospheric (TOA) reflectance. By using the k-Nearest Neighbor (kNN) algorithm, a series of experiments were conducted for above-ground forest biomass (AGB) estimations of the Gongju and Sejong region of South Korea, in order to check the effectiveness of atmospheric correction methods for Landsat ETM+. Overall, in the forest biomass estimation, the 6S model showed the bestRMSE’s, followed by FLAASH, DOS and TOA. In addition, a significant improvement of RMSE by 6S was found with images when the study site had higher total water vapor and temperature levels. Moreover, we also tested the sensitivity of the atmospheric correction methods to each of the Landsat ETM+ bands. The results confirmed that 6S dominates the other methods, especially in the infrared wavelengths covering the pivotal bands for forest applications. Finally, we suggest that the 6S model, integrating water vapor and aerosol optical depth derived from MODIS products, is better suited for AGB estimation based on optical remote-sensing data, especially when using satellite images acquired in the summer during full canopy development.
doi:10.3390/s150818865
PMCID: PMC4570350  PMID: 26263996
k-Nearest Neighbor; biomass estimation; DOS; FLAASH; 6S
20.  Three regimes of extrasolar planet radius inferred from host star metallicities 
Nature  2014;509(7502):593-595.
Approximately half of the extrasolar planets (exoplanets) with radii less than four Earth radii are in orbits with short periods1. Despite their sheer abundance, the compositions of such planets are largely unknown. The available evidence suggests that they range in composition from small, high-density rocky planets to low-density planets consisting of rocky cores surrounded by thick hydrogen and helium gas envelopes. Here we report the metallicities (that is, the abundances of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) of more than 400 stars hosting 600 exoplanet candidates, and find that the exoplanets can be categorized into three populations defined by statistically distinct (~4.5σ) metallicity regions. We interpret these regions as reflecting the formation regimes of terrestrial-like planets (radii less than 1.7 Earth radii), gas dwarf planets with rocky cores and hydrogen-helium envelopes (radii between 1.7 and 3.9 Earth radii) and ice or gas giant planets (radii greater than 3.9 Earth radii). These transitions correspond well with those inferred from dynamical mass estimates2,3, implying that host star metallicity, which is a proxy for the initial solids inventory of the protoplanetary disk, is a key ingredient regulating the structure of planetary systems.
doi:10.1038/nature13254
PMCID: PMC4048851  PMID: 24870544
21.  Testing Anthropic Selection: A Climate Change Example 
Astrobiology  2011;11(2):105-114.
Abstract
Planetary anthropic selection, the idea that Earth has unusual properties since, otherwise, we would not be here to observe it, is a controversial idea. This paper proposes a methodology by which to test anthropic proposals by comparison of Earth to synthetic populations of Earth-like planets. The paper illustrates this approach by investigating possible anthropic selection for high (or low) rates of Milankovitch-driven climate change. Three separate tests are investigated: (1) Earth-Moon properties and their effect on obliquity; (2) Individual planet locations and their effect on eccentricity variation; (3) The overall structure of the Solar System and its effect on eccentricity variation. In all three cases, the actual Earth/Solar System has unusually low Milankovitch frequencies compared to similar alternative systems. All three results are statistically significant at the 5% or better level, and the probability of all three occurring by chance is less than 10−5. It therefore appears that there has been anthropic selection for slow Milankovitch cycles. This implies possible selection for a stable climate, which, if true, undermines the Gaia hypothesis and also suggests that planets with Earth-like levels of biodiversity are likely to be very rare. Key Words: Planetary habitability and biosignatures—Intelligence—Paleoenvironment and paleoclimate—Co-evolution of Earth and life—Complex life. Astrobiology 11, 105–114.
doi:10.1089/ast.2010.0475
PMCID: PMC3697027  PMID: 21401338
22.  The two-box model of climate: limitations and applications to planetary habitability and maximum entropy production studies 
The ‘two-box model’ of planetary climate is discussed. This model has been used to demonstrate consistency of the equator–pole temperature gradient on Earth, Mars and Titan with what would be predicted from a principle of maximum entropy production (MEP). While useful for exposition and for generating first-order estimates of planetary heat transports, it has too low a resolution to investigate climate systems with strong feedbacks. A two-box MEP model agrees well with the observed day : night temperature contrast observed on the extrasolar planet HD 189733b.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0312
PMCID: PMC2871910  PMID: 20368253
climate; entropy production; extrasolar planets; Mars; Titan
23.  XUV-Exposed, Non-Hydrostatic Hydrogen-Rich Upper Atmospheres of Terrestrial Planets. Part I: Atmospheric Expansion and Thermal Escape 
Astrobiology  2013;13(11):1011-1029.
Abstract
The recently discovered low-density “super-Earths” Kepler-11b, Kepler-11f, Kepler-11d, Kepler-11e, and planets such as GJ 1214b represent the most likely known planets that are surrounded by dense H/He envelopes or contain deep H2O oceans also surrounded by dense hydrogen envelopes. Although these super-Earths are orbiting relatively close to their host stars, they have not lost their captured nebula-based hydrogen-rich or degassed volatile-rich steam protoatmospheres. Thus, it is interesting to estimate the maximum possible amount of atmospheric hydrogen loss from a terrestrial planet orbiting within the habitable zone of late main sequence host stars. For studying the thermosphere structure and escape, we apply a 1-D hydrodynamic upper atmosphere model that solves the equations of mass, momentum, and energy conservation for a planet with the mass and size of Earth and for a super-Earth with a size of 2 REarth and a mass of 10 MEarth. We calculate volume heating rates by the stellar soft X-ray and extreme ultraviolet radiation (XUV) and expansion of the upper atmosphere, its temperature, density, and velocity structure and related thermal escape rates during the planet's lifetime. Moreover, we investigate under which conditions both planets enter the blow-off escape regime and may therefore experience loss rates that are close to the energy-limited escape. Finally, we discuss the results in the context of atmospheric evolution and implications for habitability of terrestrial planets in general. Key Words: Stellar activity—Low-mass stars—Early atmospheres—Earth-like exoplanets—Energetic neutral atoms—Ion escape—Habitability. Astrobiology 13, 1011–1029.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0957
PMCID: PMC3865622  PMID: 24251443
24.  Habitable Planets Around White and Brown Dwarfs: The Perils of a Cooling Primary 
Astrobiology  2013;13(3):279-291.
Abstract
White and brown dwarfs are astrophysical objects that are bright enough to support an insolation habitable zone (IHZ). Unlike hydrogen-burning stars, they cool and become less luminous with time; hence their IHZ moves in with time. The inner edge of the IHZ is defined as the orbital radius at which a planet may enter a moist or runaway greenhouse, phenomena that can remove a planet's surface water forever. Thus, as the IHZ moves in, planets that enter it may no longer have any water and are still uninhabitable. Additionally, the close proximity of the IHZ to the primary leads to concern that tidal heating may also be strong enough to trigger a runaway greenhouse, even for orbital eccentricities as small as 10−6. Water loss occurs due to photolyzation by UV photons in the planetary stratosphere, followed by hydrogen escape. Young white dwarfs emit a large amount of these photons, as their surface temperatures are over 104 K. The situation is less clear for brown dwarfs, as observational data do not constrain their early activity and UV emission very well. Nonetheless, both types of planets are at risk of never achieving habitable conditions, but planets orbiting white dwarfs may be less likely to sustain life than those orbiting brown dwarfs. We consider the future habitability of the planet candidates KOI 55.01 and 55.02 in these terms and find they are unlikely to become habitable. Key Words: Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Habitability—Habitable zone—Tides—Exoplanets. Astrobiology 13, 279–291.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0867
PMCID: PMC3612282  PMID: 23537137
25.  Effects of Extreme Obliquity Variations on the Habitability of Exoplanets 
Astrobiology  2014;14(4):277-291.
Abstract
We explore the impact of obliquity variations on planetary habitability in hypothetical systems with high mutual inclination. We show that large-amplitude, high-frequency obliquity oscillations on Earth-like exoplanets can suppress the ice-albedo feedback, increasing the outer edge of the habitable zone. We restricted our exploration to hypothetical systems consisting of a solar-mass star, an Earth-mass planet at 1 AU, and 1 or 2 larger planets. We verified that these systems are stable for 108 years with N-body simulations and calculated the obliquity variations induced by the orbital evolution of the Earth-mass planet and a torque from the host star. We ran a simplified energy balance model on the terrestrial planet to assess surface temperature and ice coverage on the planet's surface, and we calculated differences in the outer edge of the habitable zone for planets with rapid obliquity variations. For each hypothetical system, we calculated the outer edge of habitability for two conditions: (1) the full evolution of the planetary spin and orbit and (2) the eccentricity and obliquity fixed at their average values. We recovered previous results that higher values of fixed obliquity and eccentricity expand the habitable zone, but we also found that obliquity oscillations further expand habitable orbits in all cases. Terrestrial planets near the outer edge of the habitable zone may be more likely to support life in systems that induce rapid obliquity oscillations as opposed to fixed-spin planets. Such planets may be the easiest to directly characterize with space-borne telescopes. Key Words: Exoplanets—Habitable zone—Energy balance models. Astrobiology 14, 277–291.
doi:10.1089/ast.2013.1129
PMCID: PMC3995117  PMID: 24611714

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