Modelling the atmosphere of lava planet K2-141b: implications for low- and high-resolution spectroscopy
Transit searches have uncovered Earth-size planets orbiting so close to their host star that their surface should be molten, so-called lava planets. We present idealized simulations of the atmosphere of lava planet K2-141b and calculate the return flow of material via circulation in the magma ocean. We then compare how pure Na, SiO, or SiO2 atmospheres would impact future observations. The more volatile Na atmosphere is thickest followed by SiO and SiO2, as expected. Despite its low vapour pressure, we find that a SiO2 atmosphere is easier to observe via transit spectroscopy due to its greater scale height near the day-night terminator and the planetary radial velocity and acceleration are very high, facilitating high dispersion spectroscopy. The special geometry that arises from very small orbits allows for a wide range of limb observations for K2-141b. After determining the magma ocean depth, we infer that the ocean circulation required for SiO steady-state flow is only 10-4 m s-1, while the equivalent return flow for Na is several orders of magnitude greater. This suggests that a steady-state Na atmosphere cannot be sustained and that the surface will evolve over time.