Water oceans on high-density exoplanets from coupled interior-atmosphere modeling
Liquid water is generally assumed to be the most important factor for the emergence of life, and so a major goal in exoplanet science is the search for planets with water oceans. On terrestrial planets, the silicate mantle is a large source of water, which can be outgassed into the atmosphere via volcanism. Outgassing is subject to a series of feedback processes between atmosphere and interior, which continually shape both atmospheric composition, pressure, and temperature, as well as interior dynamics.
We present the results of an extensive parameter study, where we use a newly developed 1D numerical model to simulate the coupled evolution of the atmosphere and interior of terrestrial exoplanets up to 5 Earth masses around
Sun-like stars, with internal structures ranging from Moon- to Mercury-like. The model accounts for the main mechanisms controlling the global-scale, long-term evolution of stagnant-lid rocky planets (i.e. bodies without plate
tectonics), and it includes a large number of atmosphere-interior feedback processes, such as a CO2 weathering cycle, volcanic outgassing, a water cycle between ocean and atmosphere, greenhouse heating, as well as the influence of a potential primordial H2 atmosphere, which can be lost through escape processes.
We find that a significant majority of high-density exoplanets (i.e. Mercury-like planets with large cores) are able to outgas and sustain water on their surface. In contrast, most planets with intermediate, Earth-like densities either transition into a runaway greenhouse regime due to strong CO2 outgassing, or retain part of their primordial atmosphere, which prevents water from being outgassed. This suggests that high-density planets could be the most promising targets when searching for suitable candidates for hosting liquid water.
(Presenter: Philipp Baumeister)