Stars give tiny planets a gravitational ‘squeeze’ to strip away their atmospheres

by | May 21, 2024 | Science

A scientist has learned more about the violent processes that rip atmospheres away from planets, finding that squashing and squeezing by a parent star can contribute to this process.The research, conducted by Guo Jianheng from the Yunnan Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, could help astronomers better determine which extrasolar planets, or “exoplanets,” to look at more closely as they expand their search for life beyond the solar system.There are multiple ways planets can lose their atmospheres to space, including the upper atmosphere leaving the planet as a whole, called ”¬†hydrodynamic escape.” This process is thought to be more extreme than the process by which our solar system’s planets leak particles into space today, through “hydrodynamic escape,” which causes a planet to lose mass while also impacting its climate and, thus, its habitability.Jianheng simulated atmosphere loss from low-mass exoplanets. In particular, Jianheng focused on the hydrodynamic escape atmosphere-loss mechanism and suggested a new classification method that can be used to understand this, and other, escape processes.Related: Possibly habitable Trappist-1 exoplanet caught destroying its own atmosphereThough it no longer occurs for the inner planets around the sun, in the early era of the solar system, hydrodynamic atmospheric escape may have actually occurred to planets like Venus and Earth. Had the process continued, our planet may have been left with only a thin, mostly waterless atmosphere similar to what we see around our planetary neighbor, Mars.That means understanding hydrodynamic atmospheric escape may help determine why Earth is capable of supporting life, but Mars and Venus aren’t.Though hydrodynamic atmospheric escape isn’t currently ripping away atmospheres in the solar system, astronomers have used space- and ground-based telescopes to determine that these processes are indeed occurring around exoplanets located close to their host stars.Smaller planets have a weight loss advantageJianheng performed computer simulations of low-mass exoplanets, which revealed that those with hydrogen-rich atmospheres could be experiencing hydrodynamic atmospheric escape as a result of their int …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnA scientist has learned more about the violent processes that rip atmospheres away from planets, finding that squashing and squeezing by a parent star can contribute to this process.The research, conducted by Guo Jianheng from the Yunnan Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, could help astronomers better determine which extrasolar planets, or “exoplanets,” to look at more closely as they expand their search for life beyond the solar system.There are multiple ways planets can lose their atmospheres to space, including the upper atmosphere leaving the planet as a whole, called ”¬†hydrodynamic escape.” This process is thought to be more extreme than the process by which our solar system’s planets leak particles into space today, through “hydrodynamic escape,” which causes a planet to lose mass while also impacting its climate and, thus, its habitability.Jianheng simulated atmosphere loss from low-mass exoplanets. In particular, Jianheng focused on the hydrodynamic escape atmosphere-loss mechanism and suggested a new classification method that can be used to understand this, and other, escape processes.Related: Possibly habitable Trappist-1 exoplanet caught destroying its own atmosphereThough it no longer occurs for the inner planets around the sun, in the early era of the solar system, hydrodynamic atmospheric escape may have actually occurred to planets like Venus and Earth. Had the process continued, our planet may have been left with only a thin, mostly waterless atmosphere similar to what we see around our planetary neighbor, Mars.That means understanding hydrodynamic atmospheric escape may help determine why Earth is capable of supporting life, but Mars and Venus aren’t.Though hydrodynamic atmospheric escape isn’t currently ripping away atmospheres in the solar system, astronomers have used space- and ground-based telescopes to determine that these processes are indeed occurring around exoplanets located close to their host stars.Smaller planets have a weight loss advantageJianheng performed computer simulations of low-mass exoplanets, which revealed that those with hydrogen-rich atmospheres could be experiencing hydrodynamic atmospheric escape as a result of their int …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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