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The stability of short-period extrasolar giant planets

A three-dimensional coupled thermosphere-ionosphere model for extrasolar giant planets (EXOTIM) has been developed. This is the first such model reported in the literature. This thesis contains an extensive description of the model and the methods adopted in modelling the different physical processes expected in the upper atmospheres and ionospheres of extrasolar giant planets. Modelling the upper atmosphere is important because the stability of the atmosphere against thermal evaporation is controlled by the conditions in the thermosphere. The thermosphere is heated by the absorption of EUV and X ray (XUV) radiation emitted by the host star. The radiation also ionises the neutral species in the upper atmosphere, which is expected to be composed mainly of molecular and atomic hydrogen, and atomic helium. Ionisation and subsequent photochemistry leads to the formation of the H+, Hf, H3", and He+ ions (and small quantities of HeH+). H3" emits strongly in the infrared and may act as a significant coolant in gas giant thermospheres. Assuming photochemical equilibrium, the absorption of XUV radiation and ion photochemistry were modelled in a self-consistent fashion. The 3D model can also simulate strong winds affecting the upper atmosphere, and account for both advection and diffusion of the neutral species around the planet. The results indicate that within 1.0 AU from a solar-type host star, the upper atmospheres of Jupiter-type EGPs can be substantially cooler and more stable than implied by studies that ignore the possibility of radiative (Hf) cooling. In this context, a limiting distance, or a stability limit, was identified for such EGPs that depends on the composition of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, and within which the atmospheres of the planets undergo hydrodynamic escape. Under restricted conditions, this limit is located around 0.15 AU from a Sun-like host star. The model was also used to simulate a newly found transiting planet HD17156b, which orbits its host star on a highly eccentric orbit.
Date January 2008
CreatorsKoskinen, T. T.
PublisherUniversity College London (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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