Context. Understanding of clouds is instrumental in interpreting current and future spectroscopic observations of exoplanets. Modeling clouds consistently is complex, since it involves many facets of chemistry, nucleation theory, condensation physics, coagulation, and particle transport.
Aims: We aim to develop a simple physical model for cloud formation and transport, efficient and versatile enough that it can be used, in modular fashion for parameter optimization searches of exoplanet atmosphere spectra. In this work we present the cloud model and investigate the dependence of key parameters as the cloud diffusivity K and the nuclei injection rate Σn. on the planet's observational characteristics.
Methods: The transport equations are formulated in 1D, accounting for sedimentation and diffusion. The grain size is obtained through a moment method. For simplicity, only one cloud species is considered and the nucleation rate is parametrized. From the resulting physical profiles we simulate transmission spectra covering the visual to mid-IR wavelength range.
Results: We apply our models toward KCl clouds in the atmosphere of GJ1214 b and toward MgSiO3 clouds of a canonical hot-Jupiter. We find that larger K increases the thickness of the cloud, pushing the τ = 1 surface to a lower pressure layer higher in the atmosphere. A larger nucleation rate also increases the cloud thickness while it suppresses the grain size. Coagulation is most important at high Σn. and low K. We find that the investigated combinations of K and Σn. greatly affect the transmission spectra in terms of the slope at near-IR wavelength (a proxy for grain size), the molecular features seen at approximately μm (which disappear for thick clouds, high in the atmosphere), and the 10 μm silicate feature, which becomes prominent for small grains high in the atmosphere.
Conclusions: Clouds have a major impact on the atmospheric characteristics of hot-Jupiters, and models as those presented here are necessary to reveal the underlying properties of exoplanet atmospheres. The result of our hybrid approach - aimed to provide a good balance between physical consistency and computational efficiency - is ideal toward interpreting (future) spectroscopic observations of exoplanets.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- February 2019
- methods: numerical;
- planets and satellites: atmospheres;
- planets and satellites: composition;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- language and other tiny corrections